by Margie Watson

What do you do when your five-year-old announces that she wants to go bike riding with you—and, the five-year-old happens to be blind? Here is how Margie Watson solved the problem:

My five-year-old daughter, Katie, likes to ride her bike. That surprises most people, because Katie is blind. My husband or I walk about ten feet in front of Katie and tell her when to turn the corner, but otherwise she rides straight ahead on her own.

Last spring, we were getting our bikes out from the basement, (Wisconsin snow keeps us off of them in the winter), and Katie told us that she wanted to ride with us and not ride behind us while we walked. Our first thought was to look into purchasing a tandem bike.

We learned that we could add on something called a stoker kit which would make the back seat the right size for a child. The problem with this idea was that it was expensive—about $1,000.

Another problem with the tandem bike was that the back-seat rider would have to pedal at the pace of the front-seat rider. That would be difficult for a five-year-old child. Disappointed, we figured that we would have to forego family bike rides until Katie was big enough for a tandem bike. Then we heard about a bike called the Allycat Shadow. It was designed for bike-riding enthusiasts who also happened to be parents. Essentially, it is a child-sized bike without a front tire. A bar extends up from the handlebars which is then attached to an adult's bike just below the seat.

The Allycat Shadow would make our own bike into a detachable children's tandem. It was the right size for Katie, and the price was reasonable. We immediately ordered one. We are thrilled with Katie's new bike. For us it means an affordable bike for Katie and that we can use the adult bike we already have. For Katie it means that she can pedal (or not pedal) at her own pace. And while riding with mom and dad, she is getting the feel of balancing and learning to turn, as well as riding much faster.

You can ask Katie how much fun she is having riding her new bike—that is, if you can catch her.