Editor's Note: David Carey presented a program about Tandem Cycling for the Visually-Impaired on July 14 at the Aurora Lions Club meeting at Mercy Aurora Hospital. His father, Charles Carey, introduced him to the group. Here is David’s story, in his own words:
I’m an avid cyclist who has participated in several multi-day bike tours, an Ironman, several long-distance, single-day tours (including a 300-mile ride within 23 hours) and other triathlons. I love riding bikes, and now I share the joy of cycling with those who can’t do it on their own.
One morning, I awoke from a dream and instantly felt the need to help the blind ride bikes. I started a group and bought several used tandem bicycles. My dream soon became a reality.
The name of our group is Route 66 Tandem Cyclists. This is our second year of providing tandem bicycle rides for the blind.
This is more than just riding a bicycle with a blind person -- it’s a social activity we share in a group setting. After we ride together, we sit, eat and enjoy one another’s company. The blind need socialization because it’s too easy to remain home alone in the dark and get depressed. We reach out and become their friends.
So far, we have leaders in three communities who help set up our rides. They contact me, tell me how many blind people from their area want bike rides and how many volunteers that I need to bring. We quickly plan a road trip to their area.
Currently, I own 15 tandem bicycles, a 15-passenger van and a cargo trailer, and we have a dozen volunteers who participate in the rides with the blind. Volunteers steer the tandem bikes with a blind person on the back. We ride different distances depending on the weather or the athletic ability of our riders; our rides vary from a short five-miler to a 32-miler. We usually ride the flat trails and through parks; traffic is not our friend.
We want to tell the world that the blind are welcome to join us and also remind others that the blind want to do everything that sighted people do. Gaining media coverage and spreading our message is important. Last month, three of our rides were covered by the media in Joplin and Springfield. We gained five new blind riders in Springfield, and also a person donated his tandem bicycle to our group after reading our story in the Springfield newspaper.
Not only do we help the blind ride bikes, but also others who cannot ride on their own. An amputee rode with our group, as well as young children who cannot ride solo, a man suffering from an illness which affects his strength and endurance and a woman suffering from a variety of illnesses which keep her from exercising alone. I’ve seen so many smiles on the faces of people who participate in our program.
Our services are 100% free. We never charge a fee.
We have had at least a hundred first-time tandem bike riders in the past year. People come to my home throughout the week to experience riding a tandem for the first time. Some just want to check it off of their bucket list.
Our goal is to get the communities fired up about helping the disabled. We ride tandem bikes with the blind in Joplin, Springfield, and northwest Arkansas. We will keep traveling to different towns and help those who want to join us.
On September 17, we are hosting the second annual Burn Your Buns Bike Ride. It is a charity event, and all proceeds benefit Midwest Low Vision Technology Center.
Visit www.66tandem.com for more information.