Cycling in the Netherlands is very inclusive. It isn’t restricted to the daring young men who can get up to speed and who are fearless in the busy urban traffic. In the Netherlands cycling is a viable transport option for young and old and also for disabled people.
In June I saw many people from abroad. They were visiting for a summer school or a study tour. One thing that keeps coming back in the conversations is the fact that the Dutch cycling infrastructure makes cycling so relaxed and truly open to people of all ages and backgrounds. In any cycle tour you take in the country you will see disabled people in normal traffic. They either use a mobility scooter or a special needs tricycle. You will see an array of different vehicles using the Dutch cycle ways. (Unfortunately, also vehicles that do not go well with cycling, mopeds and scooters, but the Dutch Government has now finally decided local councils may indeed forbid those to use the cycle ways in their municipality!)
Cycling is freedom, a freedom to travel, that opens up worlds for young children but also for disabled people. Thanks to the special needs vehicles and the superb cycling infrastructure network in the Netherlands they use the tricycles for transport, fitness, therapy and recreation just like anyone else. Kitty Verbeek from Enschede cycles 150km per week on her tricycle; to work in Hengelo and for recreation. Her life motto: People who are born with a disability shouldn’t hide at home, but live their lives in the heart of the community.
I have shown you how many people in mobility scooters use the cycleways, in an older blogpost. This time I focus on the tricycles. There is a whole range of these tricycles available. They can be handbikes, ordinary wheelchairs with an attachable hand cycle at the front, often e-power assisted, or tricycles with pedals. The latter are great for people who cannot hold their balance for whatever reason. Many people do not want to use a mobility scooter (yet) and you are much more active riding a tricycle.
Jetske Postma (26) had so far been dependent on her parents or a mobility scooter. But she no longer wants that. “As a 26-year-old I simply do not want to be in a mobility scooter. I was always very sporty, before I was diagnosed with cervical dystonia, I want to be able to move again” she says resolutely.
Some municipalities of the Netherlands offer the tricycles on loan. Haaksbergen for instance. This smaller town in the east of the Netherlands explains on its website that the attachable handbike turns any wheelchair into a tricycle. Making it possible for someone with a disability to reach an area that is three times as large as without one. “The attachable handcycle is therefore the most ideal aid for independent transportation.” The handcycle is seen as a transportation device and not as a wheelchair. That is why this municipality finances this type of easily attachable handcycles from the special needs transport budget and not the mobility aid budget.
If you have set your heart on a completely bespoke tricycle that you can also use for competition, like Jetske, then you are forced to finance that yourself. She has started a crowd funding project for her handcycle that will cost her 10,000 euros. “Let me cycle”, is her plead, “cycling will give me back my freedom”. As people who love to cycle I think we can all relate to that!
This week’s video: inclusive cycling on tricycles.