by Lelac Almagor

How a cargo trike makes cycling accessible for children with disabilities or special needs

Family biking is for everyone!

Here at Bunch, we love how bike riding can bring families together – and turn errands and commuting into an awesome outdoor adventure. 


What we love even more is that family biking is inclusive. The right cargo bike (or cargo trike!) can make it a lot easier for kids with medical or adaptive needs to enjoy a family bike ride and have fun outdoors. 

 

Family riding adapted bike outdoors.
Erica Schutz and son Alex enjoying a beautiful day in their Bunch!

 

 

Many Bunch families include folks with disabilities or special needs, and we love working with our Bunchers to figure out the best family biking setup!


For some families, the bike is also an easier and more affordable transportation option than a specially modified car.


Here are just a few of the ways that Bunch families make cycling work for them: 

 

 

Giving parents more freedom

A front-loading bike makes it easier and safer to get kids out of the house and manage their needs on the go. Many Bunch parents report a newfound sense of freedom to get out and explore with their kids.


For Katie Dillon, the cargo trike allows her whole family to have fun together. Her youngest, Maggie, has cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. In the past, when her family went biking, “Maggie and one parent always had to stay behind.”


They tried conventional bicycle or jogging strollers, but at ten years old and five feet tall, Maggie got too big for them; they tried a WIKE trailer, for larger passengers, but Katie wasn’t strong enough to pull Maggie in it. 


Their Bunch Bike, which they call the Maggie-Mobile, lets their family ride all together. Katie writes, “The bike has given us some sense of normalcy that so many special needs families long for.  Our evening rides also allow my husband and I a chance to chat and catch up on the day as I pedal along beside him and Maggie.”  

 

 

whole family enjoying adaptive bike outdoors together
Family adventure: Dad and Maggie ride the Maggie-Mobile, mom on her bike and big sister on her scooter!

 

 

Stephanie Thigpen, interviewed in Bike Portland, describes how her son Garrett’s medical needs mean that car rides require two adults – one to drive and one to monitor him in the backseat.


With Garrett in front of her in the tricycle's cargo box, though, she can easily keep an eye on him while she rides. “The bike allows me to get around town with him solo (or with any of his 3 siblings) and I can safely tote him and his equipment. It is truly transformative,” she says.

 

 

Making solo outings safer 

Erin Smith has three kids, Grayson (8), Easton (7), and Jovie (4). Both Grayson and Easton have autism; Grayson is “profoundly affected.” He is nonverbal, and Erin writes that he “has to have eyes on him constantly because we never know what he might do next.”

 

Erin’s partner works second shift, so she often has to get through the afternoons and evenings by herself. She writes that meltdowns were frequent: “I felt like we were trapped. I didn’t think it was safe to take all the kids out in public all by myself – especially given Grayson’s tendency to run.”

 

When Erin first heard about the Bunch Bike, she says, “The idea of getting out of the house with all three of my children contained in one spot sounded like a dream come true.”

 

She wasn’t sure how her family could afford one, but then her parents bought it for her family as a surprise Christmas gift.

 

This gift, she says, “has changed our world.” All three of her kids love the ride, and it’s easy. “When I feel a meltdown brewing, we hop in the bike and it helps so much.”

 

For Erin herself, the bike brings “exercise, fresh air, and a little bit of peace. It’s freeing for me.”

 

Front loading bike with family and special needs child
Mom Erin, Dad Mike, Grayson, Easton, and Jovie.

 

 

Heading off a meltdown

Like Erin, many Bunch parents report that getting outdoors and moving can help kids regulate big feelings and head off meltdowns. 

 

Children plus service dog in cargo box of cargo bike
William's Wheels! Brother and service dog ride along.

 

 

Lindsay Ricks also finds that a bike ride can turn a difficult day around. She’s a mom of four. Her son William has both Down syndrome and autism, and his moods can be a challenge. He is nonverbal, and when he feels angry or upset, he screams. 

Movement helps William feel calm; early in the pandemic, Lindsay found herself packing all four kids into the car for two to three hours at a time in an effort to keep William settled.

When they found the Bunch Bike, she says, it was transformative. Her son loves riding in the bike, which they call “William’s Wheels,” and she can get some exercise and sunshine at the same time. 

Running errands with him helps him practice his social skills, too. She says, “It’s given us something that we can enjoy together with William. That is such a gift.” 

 

 

Bringing along a wheelchair or medical supplies

 A box bike also makes life easier for families who need to bring along medical equipment or mobility devices in order to enjoy their destinations. 

Mom and limited mobility child with wheelchair
Calvin, Weston, and wheelchair ready to go!

 

 

The Barney family loves biking with their two boys, Calvin (7) and Weston (2.) At first they used a Weehoo trailer for Calvin, who was born with a spinal cord injury.

They wanted to be able to “ride someplace, get off the bike, and do stuff,” but Calvin couldn’t ever leave the bike because they couldn’t figure out how to bring along his wheelchair. 

Enter the cargo trike! Mom Cami Barney writes, “We can throw his wheelchair (and Weston’s scooter) into the bucket, along with the boys. We ride it everywhere we can. We even packed it in our van and took it on our trip to Florida earlier this year, so we could ride it along the beach.” 

Along with a wheelchair, Becki Moore uses the Bunch to bring along all the medical equipment her daughter needs. She writes, “My daughter is 10 and non-ambulatory, feeding tube, epilepsy, sometimes needing her suction machine and oxygen. The Bunch Bike accommodates it all and I can see her face to monitor her!

"It has helped me find JOY because we can safely leave our home and I can get some exercise while she gets some sunshine...a true blessing!”
Child with developmental disability in bike with medical equipment
Becki's daughter ready for a ride in her specially adapted seat.

 

 

Keeping up with siblings on their own bikes

A family bike makes it possible for the whole family to bike together – including those who can ride a two-wheeler and those who can’t, can’t yet, or may not be able to keep up.

 

Dad with 2 children on bicycles with mom and child on tricycle
Three kids, nine wheels, and the whole family out for a ride together!

 

 

Bunch owner Beth Pool writes, “Our children are 8, 7, and 5 years old. Our oldest child is developmentally delayed, has a number of medical issues, epilepsy and autism. As my younger children learned to ride their bikes our family was met with a roadblock. How would we go riding as a family and include our oldest child?” 

A front-loading box bike turned out to be the perfect solution for the Pool family. Her oldest child can ride in the box while her younger kids pedal their own bikes – or when they get tired, they can hop into the box as well.

The built-in seatbelts help all of her kids stay safely seated. (Some families have also installed modified seats or seatbelts for riders whose bodies need more support – see later in article!) 

Beth loves being able to keep an eye on her kids and talk to them while they’re riding. “We go everywhere with the bike... to the library, beach, parks, fishing, school, run errands and just to tool around town.” 

 

Family riding together kids and mom in adapted bike
Another way to ride: Mom and all three kids in the cargo box!

 

 

Modified seating for bigger riders

Unlike most cargo bikes or bike trailers, the Bunch Bike box can also be modified to fit older children, adults, and those who need supportive seating.

 

Rider in Bunch Bike with modified seating for extra support
Brian and his parents enjoying a scenic ride together.

 

 

Bruce Palmer uses the Bunch Bike to ride with his son Brian, who is 30 years old and disabled. Bruce’s wife rides her own bike alongside them. Bruce writes, “We love to take the Bunch Bike on the trails in Santa Fe and to load up some camp chairs (which easily fit in the compartment with Brian) and ride down to the Plaza for the summer outdoor concerts.” 

Bruce had the bike’s bench and seat belt extended to fit Brian comfortably.

Maggie’s parents use a Special Tomato seat to help her stay seated securely, while Becki modified a stroller-style wheelchair to fit into the cargo box for her daughter. 

 

Special Tomato supportive seating in Bunch cargo bike
Maggie's Special Tomato adaptive seat helps her ride safely.

 

 

Bunch also stocks special bench cushions that make the seats more comfortable and less slippery for the passenger. 

 

Grey Bench Cushion in Bunch Bike

Bench cushions from Bunch Bikes provide additional support.

 

 

The Bunch Bike Owners Club, a Facebook group, frequently swaps “hacks” and different options for supporting riders of all shapes and sizes – even pool noodles and silicone trivets can double as adaptive equipment.  

Several of the parents we spoke to ordered the front door that appears on the K9 bike to make it easier for their passengers to step in and out of the bike safely. 

 

 

Easier to pilot for parents with disabilities, too

A cargo trike can make biking more accessible for the person in the “pilot seat” as well. The stability of the tricycle setup works for riders who can’t balance safely on a two-wheeler, and the e-assist means you can cart your kids around without expending too much energy.

Some riders with physical challenges choose to use only the throttle to power the bike, getting around without pedaling at all. 

 

Family rides accommodated adaptive tricycle
Amy and her three kids bike along the lakeshore.

 

 

Amy Patton is a mom of three who has a genetic condition called Usher Syndrome Type I. She is unable to balance, and she is dealing with progressive degeneration of her eyesight as well.

Three years ago, at 27, she learned that her vision was no longer considered safe for driving. She writes, “Although I knew this was inevitable, I never expected it to be this soon. All I could think about were the soccer practices and dance recitals, not to mention the school drop offs, grocery shopping, doctor's appointments and the like that I took for granted all of these years. I'm very independent, and this new development felt like it took away a piece of my identity.” 

The Bunch Bike works for her because the tricycle gives her balance and the e-assist allows her to manage the weight of all three kids. She can pick up from school, run errands, or plan outings. She writes, “The biggest thing is that it has given me back my sense of self.” 

 

 

We’re here to help

We love these stories because we truly believe in making family biking accessible to everybody. Are you thinking of buying an adaptive family bike? We’d love to talk to you and help you figure out how to customize a Bunch so that it works for everybody in your family.

 

 

 What makes cargo trikes work for kids with disabilities?  

  • Gets the whole family out and moving together

  • Helps kids with disabilities keep up with siblings on two-wheelers

  • Lets parents keep an eye on kids while biking

  • Provides plenty of space for wheelchair and medical equipment

  • Works for older kids and adult passengers

  • Adaptive for parents with disabilities too 

 

 

Our family has special needs. What should we look for in a family bike? 

  • Can the seating area safely fit our passengers? 

  • Can the seating be modified to provide enough support? 

  • Can we keep eyes on our passengers? 

  • Can we bring along medical equipment or a wheelchair?  

  • Is there an e-assist to make the weight manageable?