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A woman wearing sunglasses is riding a bike.

Biking When (Legally) Blind

I was turned loose in town today. I went up to the square to my favorite Italian restaurant/pizzeria. I enjoyed a chicken parm sub as I watched the human circus go by my sidewalk table. I don’t know about you but I enjoy getting out where there is LIFE. An Italian radio station blared from the outdoor speaker as the cars, police cars, fire engines, and motorcycles riders who have not quite embraced the concept of a muffler went by.

Biking legally blind

Since it is actually the topic of this page, I guess I should mention I was on my bike when I went to said restaurant. It was my first day out for the season. I rode a little over seven miles and averaged about 8 miles an hour. I might have a long way to go before I qualify for the Tour de France, but at nearly 67 and legally blind, I think I am doing OK!

Independent cycling for the visually impaired

I did a page on cycling “blind” for a different forum a few years back. At that time I was not finding a great deal about independent cycling for the visually impaired. Most of the articles were - and are - about tandem cycling. Blind guy in the rear.

While I enjoyed tandem cycling years ago, I really have no one who would go with me now. By definition, tandem cycling requires a willing companion. Finding someone to fit that bill can be tough.

Using peripheral vision and not going too fast

That leaves me going solo. Since I have two, busy roads to cross on the way into town, my bike and I get a ride to the fairgrounds. There there are enough paved roads and parking lots I can ride around at my leisure. Cars are at a minimum. The areas to maneuver in are wide. If I keep my macula on the horizon, I can see anything in my path with my peripheral vision. Although I am not speedy to begin with, I find about 8 or 9 mph to be a good speed for discerning what is in front of me and taking evasive action if needed. One of my concerns is going too fast for conditions... in my eyes.

Concerns about cycling blind

I was wondering if the concerns I have about cycling blind are the same ones that other VIPs have. That took me to an article published in June, 2018 in the Journal of Disabilities and Rehabilitation. Leave it to the Dutch master cyclists to investigate the key factors for the bicycle use of visually impaired people. Jeliis and his colleagues found that willingness to venture out on a bike alone depends upon such things as personality factors such as self-confidence, as well as things like infrastructure, weather, and light conditions. I assume infrastructure refers to the quality of the road. The traffic situation is extremely important as well.

Not too proud to get off the bike and walk

I agree with their findings as those are all things I look for when I ride. I also like to be in familiar territory so I have some idea what to expect next. If I am unsure, I am not too proud to get off and walk a bit. I ride with ears wide open as well. Environmental, especially traffic, sounds need to be heard.

Cherishing the independence my bike gives me

I like to be cut loose with my bike and be able to go my own way every once in a while. It at least gives me the illusion of independent travel and not having to be dependent upon others. However, as a visually impaired adult, I also have to be responsible and cautious. I hope some of the ideas put forth here will be helpful to you when you venture out to cycle.

P.S. and if you aren’t sure you want to go on two wheels anymore? There is a wide selection of adult tricycles for under $400. Ha!

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