Give it a Tri(ride): How to turn your manual wheelchair into a powered trike

From dodgy paving to deep pile carpets, how did an innovation for wheelchair users perform in Knightsbridge streets and on London's transport?

Wheelchair users need an all-terrain vehicle to truly conquer the barriers of Central London. (Maybe something out of Mad Max?)

So, it was interesting to see access consultant Tracey Proudlock, of Proudlock Associates, try out some new tech on her manual wheelchair on a recent journey to Knightsbridge.

Introducing the Triride

The Triride helps wheelchair users negotiate rough terrain and long distances. It’s an electric powered single wheel with handlebars that attaches to a manual wheelchair, turning it into a lightweight, compact and adjustable electric trike.

Tracey with her Triride outside Buckingham Palace

And this neat invention from Italy is an example of how innovation can lessen barriers for disabled people. (For a full description, visit www.trirideitalia.com/en/)

Our route

We took the Tube from Caledonian Road to Green Park (both stations on the Piccadilly Line with step-free access from street to train), then the bus from Green Park to Knightsbridge, and walked and wheeled through Knightsbridge. And back again…

Tri-umphs

So, how did the Triride perform on London’s streets?

It allowed Tracey to power easily across the poorly maintained pavements and badly installed dropped kerbs we encountered. Without it, she might have been forced to turn back or find help.

It made mammoth routes around Green Park manageable. Tracey was able to whizz up a steep ramp from Green Park to Piccadilly, which is usually impossible without help. (And she did it in less time than it took for me to get in position for a decent photo…)

Tracey powering up a steep slope in Green Park

A pitstop at Harrods - it would have been rude not to - highlighted the Triride’s ability to handle rough terrain in the form of deep pile carpets. Sadly, it couldn’t help with the poor signage, which had us circling around for ages.

Tracey outside Harrods

And speaking of circling, the Triride can turn on a sixpence, and its accelerator and brakes are super responsive too.

With a bit of practice, it’s easy to attach, detach and adjust. It folds, weighs only around 8kg and can fit in the boot of Tracey’s mid-sized car alongside her folded wheelchair. How great! (Or Che grande! as they’d say in Italy)

The Triride helped Tracey overcome barriers on the streets that might have beaten her manual wheelchair, or demanded a lot more energy.

Tri-cky aspects

Getting on and off public transport was the most challenging part of Tracey’s Triride journey.

Although it allowed her to manage a higher step onto a Tube train, its longer wheelbase made it hard to manoeuvre when on board. Outside rush hour, Tracey was able to get into the wheelchair space but it would be a much tighter squeeze at other times.

Tracey in the wheelchair space of a Piccadilly line train

Buses were also tricky. (The steep boarding ramp is a challenge with or without the Triride). It was impossible for Tracey to fully tuck into the wheelchair space on either leg of the journey, because the Triride clashed with the grab pole.

A lack of space for manoeuvring made getting off awkward but still achievable. Although on the first bus, other passengers ‘assisted’ Tracey with her exit by picking her up and turning her to face the top of the ramp. Well-meaning but unhelpful!

Outcome of the Tri-al

The Triride was triumphant in the pedestrian environment, and its treatment of broken pavements, potholes and slopes bode well for Tracey’s intended purpose.

She plans to use hers while visiting construction sites during the course of her work. These are often not manual wheelchair-friendly, and she hopes the Triride will make it much easier to deal with steep and uneven ground.

And although using public transport was tricky, it wasn’t impossible, and is likely to become easier with practice – this was Tracey’s first time.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that that the Triride can travel for up to 20 miles on a single charge. This would have gotten Tracey between Caledonian Road and Knightsbridge four times without breaking a sweat, and with energy to spare for meetings (and Harrods).

So, the overall verdict?

Fantastico!

The Triride shows how innovation can help reduce barriers for disabled people - and our journey demonstrated how many of those exist.

Tracey and Sarah selfie inside Caledonian Road Tube station ticket hall

I can help those working in the public transport industry to understand the barriers that their disabled customers face and identify solutions to overcome these - find out more about my accessible transport expertise. Contact me to discuss how I can help you!

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