With all the antagonism and negativity about whether or not cyclists have a right to share the road, or deserve infrastructure safety improvements, it pleases me to be able to share stories like this.
On New Year’s Day I rode my bike 35 miles to a friend’s party in Bellevue, WA. It was there I had the good fortune to meet a guy who told me about a program he was volunteering for in which Parkinson’s patients were paired with cyclists on stationary tandem bikes for a study on the benefits of forced exercise. ‘Forced exercise’ doesn’t mean the person doesn’t want to exercise. It’s that their body is unable to move at a particular pace without being ‘forced’ by their tandem partner. The film clip below will show you what that’s about.
In the past few years, several studies have begun to show a beneficial relationship between cycling and Parkinson’s — in both disease diagnosis and in potential neuroprotective benefit. An important research trial funded by the Davis Phinney Foundation has brought together two of the leading researchers in this field, Dr. Jay Alberts of Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Bastiaan Bloem of Nijmegen Medical Centre in the Netherlands to continue to explore this link.
This documentary focuses on Larry Smith, a retired police captain, beloved small-town baker, and avid cyclist who has had Parkinson’s for the last 20 years.
I contacted Alecha Newbern, Program Director for Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation for information so I could bring you this story. I knew, after hearing about this many people in the cycling community would want to get involved. The forced exercise tandem cycling program is still too new and small scale to accept a major influx of new volunteers, though that time may yet come.
However, Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation has an STP team and is in serious need of cyclists to join their team. The number of STP team participants has been declining for several years. I suggested this story had the potential to boost participation since many readers may already be riding the STP. Alecha told me they go all out to support team members and that some of the team riders have Parkinson’s.
Upon fundraising a minimum of $500 each Team Parkinson’s rider will receive the care and pampering usually reserved for elite cycling teams. Joining the team doesn’t mean you have to ride with the team as a group. You can still ride at your own pace.