If one knows where to look, there is quite a lot of information about access to the countryside. However, it could well become a full time job scouring the Internet to find all the sources. The ones listed here are ones we like and whose philosophy seems compatible with ours. It is also worth noting that routes offered for parents with off road buggies can also be useful for folk with off road wheelchairs, so do not make your research too narrow!
- Accessible Countryside for Everyone - http://www.accessiblecountryside.org.uk This is the work of Neil Pedley who is keen to promote wider access to the countryside by people with disabilities by providing a 'one stop shop' for information. He is also in the business of campaigning for better disabled access.
- The Fieldfare Trust - http://www.fieldfare.org.uk/ This organisation is aimed at providing information on the needs of disabled people to countryside managers and others responsible for the management of public open space. They provide standards for physical access and also offer a Good Practice CD for those in a position to arrange access. They also list the accessible trails bearing the Millenium Miles badge.
- Photo Trails - http://www.phototrails.org This is a spin off initiative from the Fieldfare Trust that provides accessible route descriptions and photographs. The latter are embedded in the route description so that it is possible to research the route with confidence before setting foot outside the house. The total number of routes is still small, but they are now set up to take "donated" route information from interested users. The site provides tips on how to record and photograph the route.
- Walks with Wheelchairs - http://www.walkswithwheelchairs.com (Also Walks with Buggies - http://www.walkswithbuggies.com) This site was set up by Cathy Netley or Marie Houlden depending upon which bit of the websites you happen to read. However, the two sites provide details of walks that are suitable for folks with wheelchairs or buggies. The routes are shown with coloured extracts of the 1:50k Ordnance Survey map. There is also a route description and a listing of facilities such as toilets. The routes in the two sites appear, on cursory examination, to be identical. There seem to be no photographs. There is the facility to register and then upload your favourite routes.
- Ramblers Routes - http://www.ramblersroutes.org This is a relatively new and ambitious venture that intends to provide details of walks over the whole of the UK. The routes are provided by members of the Ramblers Association and area groups. They are subject to verification and checking and Ramblers Association Members can enrol as verifiers. However, to undertake that task one needs to complete on-line training. So how does the website work? Users have to enrol and then they are allowed access to the routes database. The routes are classified by difficulty and there is also a classification for routes suitable for people with disabilities. The routes I have examined include a good clear map, route instructions and also some photos of either local attractions or points on the route. This is certaily a high quality product once you get down to the level of the specific route. As the site has only recently gone live I am not sure how easy the search facility will be to use. This is certainly a resource to watch. I have attempted to enter into discussions about making minor amendments to the Rambler's classification system so that routes could be graded with the less than able bodied in mind. Unfortunately, my attempts have never managed to generate any discussion. So, if you are a prominent person in your local Ramblers Group the asking of pertinent questions would be appreciated.
- Sustrans - http:http://www.sustrans.org.uk - Most folks will have heard of Sustrans and their National Cycle Network. We include them here because their website has a mapping service that allows you to find out what routes are available in the region of any place you enter in the search field. Routes are colour coded into traffic free and road based routes. They also offer for sale some excellent maps of their routes.
Officialy their website says that "Sustrans provides creative, innovative and practical solutions to the transport challenges affecting us all." What they have achieved is certainly phenomenal, but if one is not-quite able-bodied, the National Cycle Network suddenly shrinks due to impassible barriers. As users, we feel that Sustrans' local authority partners perhaps need to apply 'innovative and practical solutions' to facilitate use by those who are physically challenged. We make this criticism as members (i.e. Supporters) of Sustrans and as cyclists engaging with our local authority to make a local Sustrans route more accessible. So, we would say do become a supporter and do grumble if you find that you routes you want to use are inaccessible.
Centre Based Kit Try Out, Support, Hire & Purchase
The problem with 'cycling otherwise' kit is that it is not so widely used that everybody is familiar with it, or familiar with the range of possibilities that can be developed. A good solution to this problem is to go to a specialist service provider who will advise and allow trial use as well as being able to supply new or second hand kit and arrange for any adaptations. Surprisingly enough, there are actually a number of organisations that meet or nearly meet that specification. In addition, there are some excellent small scale initiatives that go some way to meeting such needs.
- Quest 88 - http://www.allabilitycycling.com - This is a private limited company based in Shifnal in Shropshire. Their objectives are neatly summarised on the website: "Quest88, design, manufacture and supply cycles for children and adults who have a physical or learning disability or have impaired balance. Quest88 provide custom solutions built to the needs of individuals, as well as inclusive packages for cycling initiatives." Crucially, they offer advice both online and in person and they also run road shows around the country where people can try out all sorts of machines. They have a particular focus on the needs of children. Usefully, they also have a section on their website for buying and selling used trikes.
- Get Cycling! - http://www.getcycling.org.uk/ - This is Community Interest Company based in York whose aim is to "promote cycling, in all its varieties, for leisure, transport, health, happiness and the environment." The Company does a lot of work on roadshows to promote cycling to both the able bodied and not-quite able-bodied, especially children. They provide bike training for schools, work with compainies and higher education to promote cycle commuting, and also offer "crowd pulling events" for festivals. etc. They also offer the facility to hire various machines at their York base.
- Get Cycling Disability - http://www.getcyclingdisability.org/ - This is an "offshoot" of Get Cycling that provides cycles and cycling support to special schools, community groups and individuals. The site is particularly useful because it has a list of some of the huge variety of machines available and each one is described and shown in a photo. They also ask visitors not to place an order for a bike through their website, but to phone or e-mail, as they want to be quite sure that they understand the buyers needs and hence can supply the right machine.
- Cycling for All -http://cyclingforall.org - The aim of this site is much the same as that of the Cyling Otherwise site; to spread the word that cycling is for nearly everybody, whatever their physical condition. The site is still under construction, but useful areas include Tricycle Routes and some useful contacts including one for Adjustabilisers [http://www.gooddesigns.eu/]. The latter are stabilisers for grown ups.
- Wheels for All - http://www.cycling.org.uk/ - This organisation is concerned with providing machines suitable for use by disabled people for hire at about 50 centre throughout the UK. They also provide training sessions for new users and can provide advice on the suitability of particular machines. Indeed, we first met handcycles through this organisation. However, of late, their website is looking a little unloved, so we are not sure about what are their current initiatives.
- Gateway Wheelers - http://www.gatewaywheelers.org.uk/ - This group is a membership organisation based in County Durham which provides a regular programme of rides for people with disabilities. They have a range of machines that people can use, and probably welcome others who bring their own machines. They sound as if they would be a useful first port of call for anybody in the North East looking for informal help and advice.
- Charlotte's Tandems - http://www.charlottestandems.co.uk/ - This is another personal initiative that has developed into a useful programme. The idea is simple - they have a range of tandems that they lend out, free, to families with disabled members. They are a charity, run completely by volunteers. They have machines from the Highlands to the West Country, the South East to Northern Ireland A simple, but great idea.
- Pedal Power - http://www.cardiffpedalpower.org/ - This is a charity organisation based in Cardiff. They have a range of adapted and specialist bikes that can be hired. They operate an assessment service so that the user will always get a machine that is suited to their needs. So, this is probably a useful place to do some research into cycling otherwise kit, and Cardiff bay makes for some nice, not too demanding cycling.
- Empowered People - http://www.empoweredpeople.co.uk/ - This is a charity run by the irrepressible Simon Lord, a man with a passion for electrically assisted bikes. The charity 'provides advice, training, support and encouragement for new cyclists or those re-engaging with cycling after injury or illness' and also offers financial support for those trying to acquire specialist bikes. It is not too clear from the website how one would do that, but there is a clear Contacts Page where one can enquire about the rides and other events that they organise.