Vie Velo Tandem

The tandem is “a bicycle made for two” and over the past few months, whilst cycling with VIE Velo – a tandem club for the blind and visually impaired, I’ve discovered that it’s also a bicycle made for equal access to cycling and for challenging life.

The “challenging life” motto belongs to VIE Velo and is printed on their pink and blue jerseys. It was these brightly coloured jerseys and the sound of chit-chat and laughter that I was first drawn to as the club flocked past me on their tandems on a cycle path in Edinburgh.

VIE Velo (Visually Impaired Edinburgh) was set up in Edinburgh in 2018 as a club for visually impaired and sighted cyclists to ride together on tandems. The sighted rider at the front of the tandem, “the pilot”, controls the steering and breaking and the visually impaired rider at the back, “the stoker”, assists with the pedalling. The club organises fortnightly rides at the weekends and on Wednesdays (in the summer) for people of all ages and abilities to ride at a friendly pace.

After contacting the club and showing my interest, I was invited to attend their next “pilot training course”. The course is held every couple of months for sighted cyclists and are a great way for people like me who have never been on a tandem before to get some practice cycling as a pilot and a stoker. The course gives you a real feel for how different each role is and, most importantly, how essential good communication and trust are when riding a tandem.

Putting to one side for a moment the challenges of riding a tandem and thinking about the challenges faced by people riding a tandem with a visual impairment, makes you realise how special VIE Velo is. The visually impaired riders all have different levels of experience on a bike. Some of them have cycled lots and, unlike me, are also very good with bike mechanics. Others have cycled less or have never been on a bike before joining VIE Velo. The one thing every stoker at VIE Velo has in common is their courage and enthusiasm, and that is what makes riding with the club so enjoyable.

The work I do as a personal injury solicitor for vulnerable road users involves campaigning for safer roads and promoting active transport including cycling. What VIE Velo does is similar in that it brings people together and makes cycling accessible to those who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to get on a bike to exercise and socialise. The importance of keeping a healthy and active social life cannot be overstated and I cannot recommend enough to anyone looking for a new challenge to get in touch with VIE Velo and get pedalling.

Jo Clancy – Associate – Cycle Law Scotland

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