On August 2, “I See, I Can, I’ll Help” bicycle race started on Svobody Square in Kharkiv. Over five days, 12 participants will travel the 350-kilometer distance around the Kharkiv region accompanied by a van with personal cyclists’ items and ambulance. They will cover about 80 kilometers a day and stay in different locations at night.
Cyclists from various Ukrainian regions as well as overseas participants joined the event. A sighted pilot steers the tandem bike at the front while a visually impaired navigator sits pedaling behind.
According to Yulia Sychuk, the head of the Fight for Right public organization for people with disabilities and co-organizer of the race, such events have been happening in Ukraine for five years. Previously, only one race was held in summer. This year, one event took place in Odesa in June. The second race is being carried out in Kharkiv, and the third international race will start in August from Ivano-Frankivsk through Poland to Berlin.
“Firstly, the events aim to enable visually impaired to travel together, to open Ukraine, to overcome some psychological barriers. Another important mission is to break the negative stereotype concerning people with disabilities in society. Someone thinks that they stay at home, doing nothing, so they do not need anything. Our participants prove the contrary,” Yulia states.
According to Yulia, Fight for Right organization had to buy special tandem bicycles abroad as only road bikes which are not designed for long distances are available in Ukraine. Foreign vehicles are more reliable and durable.
People create a tandem if they feel comfortable together. For some of them, it’s the first experience, so they try to get along with each other.
There is no age limit for those who take part in the race. Last year, there were participants over 60. The main requirement, they should be in good health.
Artem Kucherenko, one of the event’s organizer, tells this route was chosen so the participants could explore the Kharkiv region. From Svobody Square they headed to Chuhuiv, then to Zmiiv, Sharivka, Bohodukhiv, Natalivka and back to Kharkiv. They plan to visit local museums, communicate with bicycle activists and just have a good time.
One of the participants Serhii Lutsenko has been visually impaired since childhood, but it does not prevent him from being active and taking part in such activities. Last year, he joined the all-Ukrainian bicycle race. Then he was able to ride for three days, and this time he is going to cover the whole distance.
“It is not a sport for me, but rather a hobby. I have never done this competitively. As a kid, I only cycled a little. Now, I’m going to cover the whole distance, and we’ll see how it goes next year. So far, it has been just an exciting pastime, “Serhii says.
Inna Zhydkova is a bicycle pilot. She rides about 20 kilometers daily. But she takes part in pairs traveling for the first time. Inna says that this is a big responsibility and new emotions for her. “The difficulty is that riding synchronously is inconvenient. I think that it will be easier after riding for three or five kilometers,” she hopes.
According to the organizers, cyclists will finish on August 6. They hope to get an interesting experience and a lot of unforgettable emotions.
Text: Natalia Ivanova