Jim enjoys a new lease of life with Lisburn Tandem Group
Jim has Macular Degeneration so has no central vision, but relatively good peripheral vision.
He began cycling for pleasure when he got his first bike at ten years old. He continued cycling until his mid-twenties, when his sight had deteriorated to the point where he was no longer safe on a bike.
During his teens and early twenties, Jim was "never off a bike", cycling to work from Donaghadee to Bangor in the summertime and using it as his mode of transport to get to different Youth Hostels the length and breadth of Northern Ireland.
With the combination of the increase in traffic on the roads in the 1960s and my eyesight deteriorating, it was folly for me to continue cycling. It wasn't fair on other road users. But the longing never went away and when, in middle age, some pals returned to cycling I was very envious.
Jim is a now a member of a Tandem cycling group in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. This group was set up by Lisburn in Focus, a BIG Lottery Safe & Well funded project, led by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB NI) in partnership with Guide Dogs, Lisburn City Council and Lisburn City Centre Management.
"I had resigned myself to never cycling again - then Lisburn in Focus came along! The Lisburn Tandem Group means that I can once again enjoy the experience of being back on a bike, with the added benefit that being a stoker means that you are protected from the worst of the wind and the rain! There is no point in lying - I would rather cycle freely on my own, but being on a tandem is great and well worth doing. Half a loaf is better than no bread!"
The group emerged out of a tandem-only sportive that Lisburn in Focus set up in June 2011. There was such strong interest in a regular Tandem Group that project staff could not ignore it and applied for funding to try and buy some bikes and essential equipment.
Both applications - to Coca Cola and Sport NI - were successful and enabled RNIB NI to buy eight tandems, a tricycle and helmets, high visibility vests and a secure container to store the bikes in. Funding was also spent on enabling some of the pilots to go through National Standard training so that they felt confident cycling on the tandems in traffic.
The Lisburn Tandem Group meets weekly in Wallace Park, Lisburn on a Wednesday night from 7.00-8.00pm. Tandems can be signed out by registered volunteers from the Lisburn Leisureplex reception any day of the week. To find out more about joining the group, the Annual June Tandem sportive or becoming a volunteer email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 028 9260 0388.
To find more opportunities for inclusive cycling check CTC's Inclusive Cycling Directory.