A few bumps along the road for accessible adventure

With a EuroVelo Biking Route proper exterior our entrance door and the Waterford Greenway a brief drive away, Mike and I aren’t any strangers to the rising reputation of biking tourism in Eire. 

Nevertheless, regardless of being aware of the greenway’s hallmark panorama of tarmacked tracks, tunnels and bushes, we had but to expertise our first inclusive “Greenway Getaway” as a household. And so, when given the chance to journey with our French bulldog and lease a hybrid handcycle, we didn’t suppose twice to set off into the West, Limerick-bound with Nala in tow.

Day 1:

Located within the coronary heart of Rathkeale city, our base as “Greenway Company” for our inclusive keep was at Rathkeale Home Lodge. Positioned across the nook from the beginning of the Limerick Greenway, this just lately renovated family-run resort supplied us with a dog-friendly, wheelchair accessible room inside a setting of relaxed Irish hospitality. 

Household-run inns could make you are feeling such as you’re a part of their household and that’s what makes them so distinctive. Greeted at reception by Lodge Supervisor Ann Madigan, we got the keys to our floor flooring room. Throughout the Irish resort trade, many could be surprized to know that wheelchair accessible rooms aren’t all the time on floor stage, actually it’s fairly uncommon, however you will be assured it once you’ve checked in with a canine companion. 

Floor flooring rooms not solely present fireplace security evacuation for wheelchair customers, in addition they assist us with any baggage logistics. After a hearty meal on the conventional Irish themed ‘Chestnut Tree Bar’, (aptly named after the mature Horse Chestnut specimen guarding the carpark), we took Nala exterior across the resort’s gardens, an acceptable house for any après-sniffs.

Nala, having a ruff time at Rathkeale House Hotel
Nala, having a ruff time at Rathkeale Home Lodge

Day 2:

The next morning, we fuelled up with breakfast on the “Greenway Bistro” ordering a carbohydrate combo of porridge & pancakes to get us via our upcoming 20km cycle. Leaving our automotive in-situ on the resort’s carpark, we grabbed our helmets & walked across the again of the grounds, only a road-crossing away from our start line at Rathkeale Greenway carpark. Our accessible journey was about to start however not with no literal ‘bump within the street’. 

Lack of a corresponding dropped kerb onto the pavement main into the carpark entrance meant I had to assist Mike negotiate a cracked excessive kerb to exit the street promptly. Such an oversight can simply be fastened, so we made a psychological notice of it for Limerick County Council’s Govt Engineer Michael Daly, who additionally doubled up as our pleasant Greenway information & photographer for the day- a real multi-tasker.

Subsequent up we met the group behind ‘Like Bikes’, a motorcycle rental firm with an increasing assortment of inclusive cycles with the assistance of Kerry Recreation Sports activities Partnership & CARA Sport Inclusion Eire. We could have non-standard bikes at residence, however it’s one factor to save lots of up and personal one, it’s one other to lease one at a greenway. 

This connection alone between this kind of cycle firm & a newly rolled out greenway, immediately creates a aggressive edge for Limerick & Kerry however for the 1000’s of wheelchair customers who need to expertise biking tourism nationwide, they don’t need to be a niche- they need their wheels to be mainstreamed whether or not it is clip-on handcycles or wheelchair tandems. The typical price of an e-assist handcycle is between a staggering €3000 to €5000. To place this disparity into perspective, my commonplace e-bike price €1200 sourced utilizing the Bike to Work scheme.

With just a few tweaks and test-runs, bike technician Dwayne hooked Mike up along with his clip-on handcycle, a sort of non-standard bike that permits guide wheelchair customers to propel the chain crank utilizing their arms as a substitute of their legs. As Nala was kitted out along with her personal private trailer hooked up to my commonplace bike, co-owners of ‘Like Bikes’ Andy and Diana defined to us their lived expertise of incapacity consciousness & how they wish to broaden their inclusive fleet. With everybody equipped, we set off in the direction of Ardagh instantly noting the attractive atmospheric planting scheme of sponsored birch and sycamore bushes that supplied dappled mild as we headed off on our journey.

Our crew, on the Waterford Greenway, part of the EuroVelo route
Our crew, on the Waterford Greenway, a part of the EuroVelo route

Very quickly in any respect, we cycle over the River Deel because it flows out in the direction of the Shannon Estuary. Intermittent chicane gates, farm crossings and limestone bridges break up our journey. With the each day temperature reaching 18 levels, we encounter lush greenery en route that supplied us with some welcomed shade from the noon warmth. 

Hawthorns, elderberry and ash bushes flanked each side of the monitor with acquainted Friesians grazing in close by fields. Chatting & biking as a trio, we sporadically interchange our alignment consistent with the greenway’s Code of Conduct, ensuring to not block any oncoming cyclists as I chauffeur Nala round in her trailer. We cease twice on our 10km route to talk away to Michael about something and every thing, highlighting the selection of wheelchair accessible picnic tables and short-term portaloos picked for the mission, whereas noticing vacationer data indicators positioned at a readable peak.

With Ardagh’s historic station home in sight, we lastly arrive at our vacation spot, residence of the enduring discovery of the Ardagh Chalice, however our surprize treasure was complimentary espresso and cake from native meals truck firm 8020 (canine treats additionally supplied!). After refuelling, Michael takes the time to indicate us architectural drawings, discussing future plans for this increasing greenway, whereas listening attentively to our suggestions. Whereas this mission remains to be in its infancy and we’ve little question that extra accessible particulars will likely be seamlessly added for members of the incapacity neighborhood who cycle, we’re additionally conscious that this €10 million visionary mission has been opened for over 12 months now with 40km of ready-to-use tarmacked practice strains.

With that in thoughts, we focus on the 2 areas which have being neglected for wheelchair customers and their households who’re biking vacationers: the inaccessible shuttle bus and incomplete incapacity parking design. The previous being exclusionary & the latter a matter of pressing consideration. Mike and I might have beloved to cycle additional exploring the enduring “Instagrammable” Barnagh Tunnel and but regardless of seeing the shuttle bus service being marketed as “accessible to all”, it isn’t. 

Biking tourism isn’t nearly commonplace bikes and buggies. Shuttle buses for the nice open air are a necessary service to tourism, serving to guests with time administration, restricted mobility, or the unpredictability of Irish climate. Different cyclists have the pliability of selection, hopping on/off greenway hubs as they see match once they’ve clocked up sufficient mileage. We don’t have that selection and since energetic journey requires utilizing your individual kinetic vitality, this service would assist lots of wheelchair customers.

The Waterford Greenway sets a good standard for cycling tourism - but inclusion is a continuous process
The Waterford Greenway units a very good commonplace for biking tourism – however inclusion is a steady course of

It might sound like an oxymoron, however inclusive biking tourism additionally must recognise how our automobiles and our wheels go hand in hand. Incapacity parking bays on gravel with no entry aisle markers for our door wingspan can result in main entry anxiousness. There’s all the time a threat of different drivers parking too near us on return from a cycle. Whether or not a passenger or driver, wheelchair customers want further house to switch from their chairs or to take out their non-standard bikes. If we can not open our automotive doorways totally, we can not get again into our autos. Going ahead greenways must be inclusive about their use of the phrase ‘accessibility’ and never use the time period to solely meet the wants of non-disabled cyclists. Know-how is consistently evolving and so are our bikes.

One other 10km and we arrive again in Rathkeale simply in time to pay a go to to the intriguing Irish Palatine Museum. Discovered nestled in Rathkeale’s previous station home, this exhibit displayed a variety of artefacts from literature to textiles related to this distinctive demographic of German settlers in Eire. 

A historical past that we’re embarrassed to say we by no means knew a lot about and is only one of many examples of how greenways open up hidden gems beforehand tucked away in rural communities. With our baggage packed and one closing goodbye at reception, we hit the street however not earlier than stopping at Coillte’s Curraghchase Forest Park to assist Nala burn off some vitality & snooze off the journey again residence to Wexford. It’s a canine’s life!

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