It takes two to ride
Blind people can’t cycle? Says who?
Our OP colleagues, Franck Kermoal and Flavien Evaristo, have been keen cyclists for years. So when they decided to engage in charity work, they did not want to settle for just raising funds. Together with their friends they decided to do something special: accompanied tandem cycling rides for blind and visually impaired people. But before the tandem teams can pedal away, lots of preparation is necessary, both for the blind (or visually impaired) ‘passengers’ and for their ‘pilots’.
So far, 17 pilots have completed the necessary training and first aid course. The trickiest part of the training is a blindfolded slalom, which allows pilots to experience the feeling their passengers will have. Not everybody managed this — even some of the experienced cyclists lost their balance.
The passengers also need to pass a test, to check how they behave on the road and make sure they feel safe on the bicycle. Once they have passed the test they can join the association and enjoy accompanied cycling.
Before the rides start, both partners put on special high-visibility gear. They use custom tandems with adjusted seats, headlights and tyres. Soon everyone will also have their own personal seat. Comfort is important as a typical ride can be between 30 and 70 km, even if, as a rule, the passengers are not very sporty.
The rides take place from April until the end of September and, if the weather is good like this year, during the first half of October. They always take place at the weekend, when pilots can spare some time. Demand is high: ‘we have more interested people than pilots available for them; that’s why we plan to train more cyclists’, say Franck and Flavien.
As the pair on the tandem have to understand each other, pilots speak French, but also English, German, Italian, Luxembourgish and Portuguese. Most are men, but there is also one female pilot.
Eight passengers have used the association one or more times. They are between 24 and 62 years old, and with various builds going up to around 130 kg. It’s important to correctly pair the guide and the passenger. ‘If someone heavy loses balance, a light pilot will not be able to correct this’, explains Franck.
The association 'Les Tandems de la Vue' will participate in a spinning day in "Luxexpo - The Cube", this Sunday, 21 October.
At this event, organised to promote organ donations, more than 1.200 people will practise spinning during the day. The group (50 members and all the passengers) will be on bikes from 1.15 pm.
Two other OP colleagues are also involved in the work of the association: Roberto Di Iacovo is a pilot and Jacqueline Koczorowski is a member of the Administrative Council.
Would you like to help ‘Les Tandems de la Vue’ as a member, or maybe even become a pilot? Or do you know someone who can’t see, but wants to cycle? You can read the association’s materials (see below), or contact Franck and Flavien.