SAFETY AND REFLECTIVE GEAR FOR HANDCYCLISTS

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Cycling is a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends.  It is also a great way to improve cardiovascular fitness.  Many people, with varying disabilities, were unable to enjoy this sport until the advent of the handcycle about thirty years ago.  This invention from the Netherlands, has enabled people with lower-limb mobility problems, to take to the road again on their arm-powered vehicles.  It is growing in popularity daily and was added as an event for the first time at the 2004 Paralympics.

VISIBILITY

Handcycles travel much lower to the ground that ordinary bicycles and so visibility can be a problem.  Riders should wear a reflective safety vest and reflective bands around their arms.  It is also advisable to place reflective strips on various parts of the handcycle and place a safety flag at the rear to make yourself more visible to passing vehicles.  The addition of flashing lights, both front and rear, will also make you highly visible.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT HANDCYCLE

Before the advent of the handcycle, there was the racing wheelchair.  Manufacturers slowly began to realise that not everyone was interested in racing and just wanted to exercise and enjoy riding with family and friends – so the handcycle was born.  Close on its heels, came the racing handcycle. 

In some countries in the world, there are showrooms where you can try out various models before you decide which one suits you best.  There are models which are suitable for general road use, off-road use and for racing.

BEFORE SETTING OFF

Whatever mode of transport you are using, whether it’s a car, bike or skateboard, you must make sure that it is roadworthy.  This is especially the case with a handcycle, as the rider may not be physically able to fix any problems that occur on a road trip. 

Wear the right clothing for the weather that has been forecast.  Make sure you wear a good quality  helmet and don’t forget to put your reflective vest on top of your outer clothing.  As you are travelling close to the ground, it is possible that stones or other debris can be disturbed by passing traffic, so wearing some sort of protective eye wear is a must.

Handcycles are more stable than other types of bikes but they can still tip, so it is wise to wear knee guards and elbow pads. 

If you are planning a long ride, it is better to go with a couple of friends, just in case you get into some sort of difficulty.

FOLLOW THE RULES OF THE ROAD

Like all road users, don’t use your cell phone or I-pod while riding on the road.  You need to concentrate on the sights and sounds around you.  Always indicate your intentions clearly to other road users, well before you intend making a turn.

If you are passing a parked car, remember that you are low to the ground and therefore not as visible as other road users, so leave ample room for a car door to open when passing the vehicle.