We all know how the saying goes, “it’s as easy as riding a bike.” But for individuals with special needs, riding a bike may not be so easy.
Twelve-year-old Joey Cohen was born with autism, and though he loves wheels and riding in the back of his dad’s Burley (a pull-behind bicycle trailer for children), he struggled to ride a bike on his own, his feet often getting caught up in the pedals.
“Bike riding is one of those things that you do as a child that’s kind of like a given, a natural thing,” Joey’s dad, Steven Cohen, said. “Typically at three and a half to four years old you learn how to ride a bicycle. When you’re a child with special needs, that is one of those things that you don’t get—that independence, that freedom that you get from your folks when you start riding a bike.”
So Cohen, who sells and manufactures machinery for a living, began tinkering with Joey’s bike. He removed the pedals, crank, and breaks until all that was left was a frame, two wheels, a seat and handlebars—the modified version he came up with was the prototype for JoRide. Joey was then able to walk the bicycle around and eventually take it for a glide—it’s a walk-riding bicycle, not a pedal bicycle. The idea is for children and adults with special needs to learn how to balance themselves on the bikes, and for some, it may be training for learning how to pedal.
“It’s not my idea, it’s [Joey’s] idea I just went on his want, wanting to be like everybody else,” Cohen said. “This gives children the ability to do something that they normally couldn’t do or that their parents were too afraid to let them go do and with their parents guidance…this is really riding a bicycle, they’re really walk-riding a bicycle. [We’re] giving people [with or without special needs] back the ability to try and gain balance, strength and independence and growing that independence strength and balance is what keeps them off the sidelines.”
In addition, JoRide promotes fitness and can be used in adaptive physical education classes as well as assist with occupational therapy year round. The bike is provided to individuals and offered programs by local schools, community centers, camps, therapeutic day schools and rehabilitation centers including Keshet, the Center for Enriched Living, Northern Suburban Special Education District and others.
The bikes, manufactured by Bike USA Inc out of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania are available on the JoRide website (http://www.joride.com/), through Bike USA Inc, on Amazon, at Kiddles Sports in Lake Forest and Trek Bicycle Store in Highland Park. For more information, visit www.joride.com.