04 September 2008

Adaptive bikes give disabled riders freedom of mobility

Jacob Honeyman broke into a huge smile as his father, Hal Honeyman, pulled the 15-year-old's bicycle out of a trailer behind the family's St. Charles shop, The Bike Rack.

The bike boasts a polished dark green frame with the name of the model emblazoned on the side: The Adventurer 2000. It has three wheels like a tricycle, a padded seat with a back, and pedal straps that loop over Jacob's shoes.

It is perfectly modified for Jacob, who was born with cerebral palsy, which includes a number of neurological disorders that affect body movement and muscle coordination. He grabbed its adjustable handlebars and pulled the bike to him before his father could move to help him out of his wheelchair.

"The bike is a pretty simple solution to some complex problems," Honeyman said.
Honeyman has spent the past 12 years fitting children and adults with disabilities all over the country on adaptive bikes.

The Bike Rack, 2930 Campton Hills Road, has been family owned and operated for 35 years, he said, and the Honeymans are a bicycling family. That didn't change when he and his wife, Julie, had their first son, Dane, 23, and it wasn't going to change several years later when they had triplets, Emily, Clare and Jacob.

Jacob's bike just needed a few modifications.

"Before we had our triplets, I think I was fairly compassionate and understanding of people," Honeyman said. "Once you get into this world, you realize how many people this is. There is a need out there. A lot of it is an invisible community until you get involved."

Honeyman founded the nonprofit Project Mobility: Cycles for Life Inc. about 12 years ago "to put a positive spin on wheelchairs and adaptive bikes" and began operating Creative Mobility out of The Bike Rack to find bikes for other children and adults with disabilities.

He created the Versa Trike, a low-riding, three-wheeled model with an upright seat, when nothing to fit specific disabilities could be found. Honeyman has hosted, supported and attended hundreds of adaptive cycling events and activities and collaborated with hospitals, schools, park districts and other organizations.

And it's all because of Jacob.

"(A doctor once) told him, 'Jacob, do you realize you're responsible for thousands of kids riding bicycles all over the world who would never have been able to ride a bike?'" Honeyman said.

Next month, Jacob will continue raising awareness about the importance of mobility for people with disabilities. He will be the run starter at the first Run for DayOne at 8 a.m. Sunday, Sunday, at St. Charles' Pottawatomie Park.

The event will be hosted by Geneva-based DayOne Network, which provides service coordination and advocacy for more than 2,900 children and adults with developmental disabilities and delays in Kane and Kendall counties and Hanover Township. About 500 people are expected to participate in a professionally timed 5K run and a wheelchair- and stroller-accessible family walk that will be shorter than 1 mile.

Executive Director Joyce Helander said DayOne Network asked Jacob to start the event because of its theme of mobility awareness.

"That's important because a number of people that we serve also have physical disabilities," Helander said. "It's important to raise awareness. It's important they have access to the community, be able to enjoy their community and their parks."

That's what a bike can do for children and adults with disabilities in addition to its physical benefits, according to Honeyman.

"When you're in a chair, you have a tendency to feel trapped. When you get on a bike, you're free of that," he said. "You feel the wind on your face, and you're out there with everybody else, with all your peers."

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