Cripple in Cambridge – Week 4

Bikes are just a poor man’s wheelchair, explains ABBI BROWN.

bikes blamelessness fixie Kuda napping saddle staring wheelchair

When is a bike not a bike? When it’s a wheelchair. 

As a wheelchair user, there are some things you just have to get used to. Rubbing your sleeves on your wheels and developing matching muddy patches on every jacket you own is one of those things. Being stared at is another. It’s human instinct to take a second glance at people who look unusual, so I try not to mind. By that logic, however, Cambridge is one place where I really ought not to be stared at. Yes, I’m a human on wheels. But in a city where bikes seem to outnumber people, I’m not the only one.

Now THAT is worth staring at

Two weeks ago, I claimed that my wheelchair is edgier than a fixie bike. Thinking more seriously about this comparison, I’ve come to the conclusion that a wheelchair really is basically a bike, but better. Read on for just a few of the reasons why.

1. Napping potential

If there’s one thing that all Cambridge students have in common, it’s our love of napping. I once had a little sitting-up snooze whilst parked outside Kuda. The only minor casualty involved was my pride, but I didn’t mind because I was asleep. If you’ve ever tried the same thing on a bicycle, you deserved whatever catastrophes befell you.

The most appropriate response to Kuda: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

2. What even is a saddle sore?

Goodbye painful crouching post wrought from the pits of hell, hello nice comfy cushion.

3. Seatbelts

A fun essential for those of us who a) regularly traverse cobbles, and b) have close friends particularly fond of spontaneous wheelchair slaloms.

4. No faffing around with bike locks

Whilst my two-wheeled peers battle with U-locks and railings, I can take my vehicle into almost any building I like; in fact, public and commercial organisations are legally obliged to help me inside. And if I get mud on their carpet, they’ll probably apologise for having carpet put down in the first place.

Sucks to be you

5. Storage space

On my back, under my cushion, even underneath my seat. My wheelchair beats your precariously balanced system of panniers hands-down.

6. Upper body strength

Who needs functioning legs when you can plank for eleven minutes? Lady Margaret M1 would, I’m sure, be happy to confirm their shameful defeat in the boat club’s planking competition. #gainz

I could take him any day

7. Dual controls

In cycling terms, a wheelchair is the sophisticated equivalent of one of those children’s trikes with a push-handle for parents to use. If that impressive upper body strength ever lets you down, friends can push you home (and even feel morally obliged to do so.)

8. Total blamelessness 

Whilst unintentionally scattering crowds on King’s Parade, I once saw a woman step directly into the path of an oncoming cyclist, and then shout at said cyclist when he nearly hit her. I can guarantee that, were I to ram my sharp titanium footplate into the heels of the very same woman, she would apologise profusely and call me an inspiration as she limped away.

“Terribly, terribly sorry. The fault is all mine. Can I kiss your feet in repentance?”

The one minor disadvantage of the wheelchair as a means of perambulation is that, Paralympic track athletes aside, the average manual wheelchair-user is slower than the average cyclist. However, this difficulty is more than made up for by the fact that few people dare to be annoyed when a wheelchair-user is late. It’s plain inspiring that we made it out of the front door at all.