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Tandem bikes bring joy, mobility to Raleigh people with disabilities

A new effort in Raleigh wants to bring specialized tandem bikes to the Oak City to give people with limited mobility the opportunity to use the city's greenway system.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Sean Toomey and his daughter Eleora love going for bike rides.

But for Sean and Eleora, the rides might look a bit different.

"She's a severely disabled kid that has brought us blessings and joy since she's been here," Toomey said.

The duo's rides are made possible by a special wheelchair-equipped tandem bicycle. The setup made Sean Toomey known around the neighborhood as the guy with the big bike—and that big bike usually has a smiling girl riding on the front.

"When she rides it, sometimes she's laughing so hard I have to remind her to breathe," Toomey said.

Now, other people on Raleigh's extensive greenway system might have a chance to use these special bikes, as well.

Scott Reston, who runs the bike-centric website raleighriders.org, previously served on the board for Raleigh Parks and Recreation. He is now launching a campaign to bring the specialized bikes to the city's greenways.

"I just really know how much joy a bike ride can bring to people," Reston said. "I wanted to find a way bring that to more people."

It would start small: a couple of bikes at first, with volunteer pedalers. But Reston thinks it could be the start of something big.

"We've got such a great greenway system in the city," Reston said. "It would be real easy to expand this out and put a set of bikes at greenway-adjacent parks so it's real easy to hop on one and go for a ride."

Each specialized bike costs several thousand dollars a piece, but riders say it's a small price to pay for the joy they bring.

"Sometimes there are days where she's a little less engaged with the world, and when we take this bike ride, she's fully engaged for the rest of the day," Toomey said.

The city's parks and recreation department told WRAL it supports Reston's project.

It would be privately funded.

Right now, Reston is looking for volunteers who are willing to pedal.


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