It’s mid-morning at Rutledge-Wilson Farm Park in west Springfield, which connects to the Ozark Greenways trail. It’s a beautiful area, with rolling hills, fields of crops, a chicken coop and a large pond. However, one thing that makes this park unique is that it has some extra options for people with disabilities in the form of three very special bicycles. They’re available for anyone to use.
Cyrus Taylor, who oversees programs for people with disabilities at the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, opens the garage door to these unusual bikes. Inside are three vehicles with pedals, all designed for people with physical or developmental disabilities.
“These bikes may look a little bit different, but the really key component to all of them is that they get everybody out and everybody riding, which is what we want to see," Taylor says.
And the first one is actually a red tricycle with a seat that looks like a comfortable office chair, complete with a mesh back and a cushioned seat.
He says this red tricycle is perfect for people who can pedal and steer—but who might not have much strength.
“It’s a very stable bike. It’s got a long wheel base,” he says. “Although you are stable while you’re on it, it stays stable as you ride as well.”
And people with balance or vertigo problems can also use this tricycle. Taylor said he’s even seen an octogenarian use this tricycle—as well as someone who had never ridden a bike before.
Bike number two is a blue, two-seater called the “Buddy Bike.”
“The person who’s kind of captaining the bike is sitting behind the individual who’s in front of them, so in essence, it’s a tandem bike,” Taylor motions toward the two-seater.
And the blue Buddy Bike has two handlebar sets.
“The Buddy Bike has a forward and rear seat. There are a wider set of handlebars that extend out on either side for the rear rider to grab onto. And then attached to those is a higher set of handlebars that the forward seater can hang onto,” Taylor says.
So this might be good for a parent and a child learning to ride—or someone who might not have much lower body strength. The seat in front is pretty small.
And the third bike is called “The Duet.” It’s pretty high-tech, Taylor said, but easy to use. It’s kind of like an inverted tricycle: it has one tire in the back, and two up front. And a full chair with straps for the person riding in front.
Taylor says these bikes have helped people with Down’s Syndrome and cerebral palsy enjoy a ride through the outdoors.
“What these bikes have allowed, they’ve allowed children to get out on bikes, they’ve allowed senior citizens to get out on bike," Taylor recognizes. "People that thought they would never be able to be part of that experience of just kind of having the wind blowing in your face cruising down a trail, have been able to come out here and really enjoy the farm, the greenways, and all that we have to offer in the Ozarks.”
Taylor shows us how the multiple Velcro straps let the passenger in front remain secure.
And this third, Duet Bike comes with an extra boost – literally.
“You have the ability to use an electric assist,” Taylor said, "So if you're going up a hill and having some difficulties and things, it’ll kind of kick in and give you a little bit of a boost, which is kind of nice.”
"She loves it. She absolutely loves it. It gives her an opportunity to go as fast as everyone else," says Rebecca Dula. Her daughter, Claire, was born with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, which affects how her brain communicates with her legs. Claire used the Duet Bike at Rutledge-Wilson Farm Park, and her mother says it was an amazing experience.
"And so that that, to her, you can tell that that just makes her day, that finally [she's] keeping up with the Joneses and keeping up with everyone else," Dula said.
The Springfield-Greene County Park Board said these three cycling vehicles are available year-round, and there’s no cost to use them.
It’s best to call ahead to the Rutledge-Wilson Farm Park to reserve them. The park is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
And park officials say the bikes won’t be available during the four weekends of Harvest Fest, which starts this weekend and ends October 27.