John Waterman was a public school teacher in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1988 when a student from the special education classroom was hit by a car while riding his bicycle at night (without a helmet) and was severely injured. This tragic event moved John to initiate a bike safety program for kids with disabilities. John believed that all individuals have the right to not only enjoy cycling, but to access their communities and enjoy independence through cycling.
It took a number of years partnering with other nonprofit organizations, but in 2004 the bike program opened its doors as PEAC, Programs to Educate all Cyclists, an independent nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities by using cycling for transportation, integrated recreation, fitness, and therapy.
Individuals enrolled in PEAC’s programs set their own goals and PEAC staff members help students accomplish them. As a result, there is a lot of variety in student goals, from an individual aspiring to get to work independently to a child desiring to take part in family rides to athletes training for the Paralympics. Although most individuals in the program have disabilities, PEAC is not just for those with disabilities. Through Celebration of Cycling, our LCI classes, 2 x 2, and our family rides, we welcome everyone who wants to become a better cyclist into PEAC.
Some individuals with disabilities may always need some type of support or assistance, whether it is to ride tandem or only in secluded areas, but they are all able to participate. For our own training purposes, we divide cyclists into four distinct ability levels:
- Participation: This level includes cyclists who require substantial support because they are learning the basic mechanics of pedaling and steering. The individuals in this level may demonstrate difficulty with impulse control or the ability to follow directives.
- Companion Cyclists: An individual in this level, for example, may have a visual impairment and need someone to ride with them as a “pilot,” or an individual with a cognitive impairment may need an additional rider for directives. PEAC has a 2×2 club that trains captains to ride with participants.
- Restricted Independence: This level basically includes everyone, regardless of disability, as we all have self-restrictions such as personal preferences, weather, busy roads, moods, etc. During this stage, personal routes and travel plans are developed.
- Complete Independence: Regardless of disability, a basic novice rider is not completely independent, therefore this final level is somewhat elite.