Every person with autism or a disability has unique talents and traits that make them amazing just the way they are. However, in many ways, our world is not built for people with exceptional brains and bodies. Individuals on the autism spectrum or who have a disability often struggle to accomplish tasks that are simple for the rest of the population.
For many, riding a bicycle is one of those tasks. Disabilities such as blindness or deafness can obviously preclude a person from being able to ride a bicycle safely, but it’s a lesser-known fact that people with autism, down syndrome, and fragile X syndrome may also have difficulty with this activity, because it requires balance, coordination, and well-developed motor skills.
Luckily, however, new inventions are coming out every day to help people with autism and other disorders and disabilities do the everyday things they struggle with. One of these is the Hugbike, a tandem bicycle meant for people with autism who have trouble riding a traditional bike—but it can help people with a wide range of other disorders and disabilities as well.
On the Hugbike, the individual with autism sits on the front seat with their hands gripping the front set of handlebars. A friend or family member can then sit on the rear seat and hold onto the longer set of handlebars to steer the bike. In this way, the rear rider can guide the bicycle while the front rider enjoys the view and the wind in their face like they would with a traditional bicycle.
The Hugbike setup allows the person in the front to feel safe and “hugged” by the person in the back. A traditional tandem bicycle, in contrast, would only allow a person with autism or a disability to sit on the back seat, where they can’t be as protected or monitored by the driver.
The creators of the Hugbike hail from Opera Della Marca SRL, an Italian non-profit organization that provides assistance, education, service, and support for persons with autism. The Hugbike is partially built by people with autism too, which provides them with a safe and inclusive work opportunity.
Check out the Hugbike below. Is this a bicycle idea you can get on board with?
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?