I am seeing a lot of news articles around e-bikes and how they are being banned in cities both in Canada and the USA, and every time I see one of those articles it breaks my heart a little bit more. Come with me on a journey if you don’t mind indulging me.
In 2008 my world changed drastically, as is the way these things often go.
It was July 25th, a gorgeous day… I was on the tail end of my final training week prepping to run a half marathon with my friend in August. I was getting my run gear on and noticed that my left foot was asleep. I didn’t think too much of it, finished getting ready and checked my email… and noticed about 20 minutes later and my foot was still asleep. I knew that was odd, so I did a bit of a jig to try and get the blood flowing, no dice.
I knew it was probably not safe to hop on my motorcycle to head to the doctors, so I called my mom and asked if she would mind zipping me to the doctor after work, then went to have a shower since my run was no longer an option. By the time I got out of the shower 10 minutes later my foot was not only asleep, but it was a shade of purple/blue I cannot possibly describe without using HEX codes. I called my mom back and said that we had better change the trip to the ER.
Now, I won’t get into ALL of the nitty gritty details because this is not meant to be my life story, but I will say that July 25th changed my life forever. After being in the hospital for several weeks and nearly losing my life, we discovered I have a blood gene mutation that causes my body to hyper clot to the tune of an extensive DVT (deep vein thrombosis/blood clot) from my ankle to my abdomen. So extensive that at first the doctor feared it was in my artery. In comes my new life with a wheelchair.
My first wheelchair was misery, I won’t lie. It was affordable, and 100% the worst wheelchair you can imagine, it was completely “institutional”. This meant that I watched my mobility and freedom go right out the window because it was just too difficult to bother. After some time in this wheelchair, I managed to get an upgrade (another amazing story for another day), and did I ever upgrade! I got a super customized chair with massive mountain bike tires! With that, I recovered some of my freedom. In this manual wheelchair I was a BEAST!
Now this is where it starts to get important – My first time out in this chair was the day we picked it up from the shop. We drove IMMEDIATELY to a path in a wooded area to “test it out”. We got part way into the bush and forgot to bring bug spray, as my spouse ran back to the car to get it – I sat in the woods hysterically crying with joy. You see, it had been a few years since my disability, and I never thought I would ever be able to go “off-roading” again. This was a life changing moment. (Sincere apologies to the woman who happened to stumble across the lady in a wheelchair hysterically crying alone in the woods, I am still ok! I promise!)
Jump forward 8 years and with much hard work, I was able to leave my wheelchair behind (not far, I have learned not to trust this body), I graduated to a walker, and then to a cane. Now I can walk without my cane (most of the time) … but the tradeoff is that I cannot walk much, fast, or far. This means, I cannot experience the world without limitations (still), and I cannot keep up with my friends and family on two feet.
My leg still does not work right so a “normal” bike is out of the question, but then I discovered e-bikes. I found a model that works with my disability… and I purchased it! Since the day it arrived, I have gone for two bike rides a day, nearly every day. The first ride made me cry with absolute joy… it gives me BACK my accessibility and freedom. I can keep up, I can FULLY participate, and I can spend time with my loved and be active. Not to mention that my physical and emotional health benefit greatly from this bike.
This e-bike for me, and MANY others is a mobility device. I know like everything in this world some people will abuse the privilege of owning something powerful that can be dangerous, but please, before taking up arms to ban them? Consider that this device may be giving someone else back their accessibility. Have bylaws, rules, regulations to ensure safe usage – but please don’t ban them. Don’t take away our accessibility in an already fairly inaccessible world.