A male youth with a physical disability riding a bike alongside his instructor.


Reducing barriers to physical activity for youth with disabilities

May 24, 2023

Goodwill Industries of Alberta is much more than a donation centre or a network of thrift shops. The organization operates a number of job training programs and social enterprises that focus on waste diversion as well as creating employment opportunities for people of all ages and abilities. Their You Can Ride 2 (YCR2) adaptive bicycle program gives children and youth living with complex disabilities the opportunity to experience the joy of cycling, which is something that many of us take for granted.

Do you remember learning how to ride a bike for the first time? YCR2 makes cycling possible for children and youth living with varying disabilities such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy and autism. Made up of volunteer pediatric therapists, bike mechanics and members of the Edmonton cycling community, this program has been instrumental in enhancing the quality of life, social connectivity and ability to participate in physical activity for thousands of young people.

It gave my son independence. He goes out to watch other kids in the community ride their bikes, and he just loves that he can ride one now too.

- Parent of child in the You Can Ride 2 program

How Goodwill Industries of Alberta’s You Can Ride 2 works

The Borrow a Bike program begins with a team of volunteer pediatric therapists and mechanics fitting, modifying, adapting and testing bikes to meet the individual needs and abilities of each child. Prior to loaning out the bikes, children are assessed and fit by a team of therapists. Modification needs are communicated to the team of mechanics who then customize the bikes accordingly. Bikes are all rechecked then tested before being lent out. 

Each child has the opportunity to participate in a six week evidence-based cycling course designed to teach children with coordination challenges or other special needs how to ride their modified bike. Families not in the Borrow a Bike program have other ways to participate: those who purchase their own bikes are provided with the opportunity to bring it to YCR2's warehouse so that it can be adapted specific to their child's individual needs.

From three-wheeled trikes with headrests for kids who need help with head control to an elliptical style bike or handcycle for kids who can’t bend their knees, YCR2 makes riding a bike accessible for children and their families who never thought it would be possible. No matter what the bike looks like, when the kids hop on for the first time, the joy on their face is priceless.

Young boy riding his modified bike in Goodwill of Alberta’s warehouse; A male youth with a physical disability posing for a photo on his modified bike; Girl in sunglasses riding a three-wheeled bike alongside her father.

Jon’s adaptive bike

Riding a bike was never easy for ten-year-old Jon, who has cerebral palsy and vision impairments. He became fearful of sitting up high on a bike and refused to ride one, saying he’d never get on a bike like that again. Jon and his family felt discouraged. YCR2’s lead volunteer physiotherapist at the time suggested that Jon try a recumbent trike. Pedals with toe cages were installed, and the bike mechanic assembled it with hand shift options for Jon to use. Seated low to the ground, Jon was independent, relaxed and confident riding his modified bike.

Jon riding his modified recumbent bike in the community

Supporting Goodwill Industries of Alberta

Thanks to a TELUS Edmonton and Northern Alberta Community Board Grant, we’re helping Goodwill Industries of Alberta grow the YCR2 program to reach an additional 200 children and youth living with complex disabilities. This grant builds on the partnership TELUS established with the organization when they first funded this program back in 2017. TELUS has also worked with Goodwill Industries of Alberta to provide job opportunities to people facing barriers to employment.

You Can Ride 2 enters schools 

Bikes in Schools is the latest initiative within the YCR2 program. As part of this initiative, Goodwill Industries of Alberta is providing adapted bikes on a loan basis to schools in Edmonton that operate special needs programming. It provides children with disabilities physical activity, instruction and recreational opportunities over the winter months. The bikes used in schools can be transferred into stationary bikes or they can be ridden in the school gym or hallways. 

Educator pushing girl on her modified bike in a a school hallway.
This may seem simple and not so important to the average family. But for our family, and more so for my son, it puts him at par with peers his own age. He rarely has moments like this and when it happened to him, I cried with pure joy because for one of the first times in his life, when he is on a bike, there are no disabilities.

- Parent of child in the You Can Ride 2 program

Thank you for reducing barriers to physical activity 

With the support of our donors, partners and visionary organizations like Goodwill Industries of Alberta, we’re empowering young people with complex disabilities to maximize their independence while improving their physical and mental health through accessible bike riding.