Mythbusting for National Epilepsy Week - day 5 - cycling and epilepsy
Myth: Cycling is dangerous if you have epilepsy
Fact: People with epilepsy can cycle and take part in organised events
Cycling and epilepsy
People with epilepsy can and do cycle. There is no evidence to suggest that anyone with epilepsy should be stopped from cycling or denied access to cycling clubs, and cycling events. This includes ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs). To deny people access to these goods and services just because they have epilepsy is direct discrimination, and for this reason unlawful.
People with epilepsy should consider their own health and safety when cycling. Uncontrolled seizures could impair awareness and/or cause someone to fall off their bicycle. If you have uncontrolled seizures you could take precautions to reduce the risk of an accident. These precautions might include wearing a helmet, cycling only with others and not cycling on public roads.
Stewart Kellett, Director of Recreation and Partnerships at British Cycling backs the position that people with epilepsy can enjoy cycling. Mr Kellett said: “Cycling is an activity that offers many health, environmental and social benefits. There’s no reason to suggest that anyone with epilepsy should be stopped from cycling or denied access to cycling clubs, and cycling events. It’s just a matter of deciding what type of cycle, route and safety precautions are best for you.”
Case study – Katie Ford
Katie Ford is a 27-year-old ultra-marathon cyclist, diagnosed with epilepsy when she was nine. She had surgery to treat her epilepsy which was successful and Katie learned to drive at the age of 18. One year after passing her test though, she had a breakthrough seizure and lost her driving licence, so she took up cycling. Katie says: "After losing my licence, I made the decision never to drive again because of the long gaps between my seizures, up to three years even. It was a blow to my independence having to plan journeys with military precision and rely on others for help, but my bike is the burst of freedom I get back. I don't have to plan, I'm able to just jump on my bike and go wherever I like round London, whenever I like."
“To me, it makes sense that, rather than save up for a car, I save up for a bike. There are draw backs obviously - it doesn't have a boot, I can't carry passengers and it's not the best form of transport for long distance journeys, but then again, it's mine and it's freedom to me. Living in such a big city, there's a big part of me that smiles inside when I'm not stuck in a car during peak time traffic."
"In 2008, aged 22, I chose to do the Race Across America, a 3,000 mile cycling race. I was part of a four-woman team cycling round the clock: we officially finished in eight days, six hours and 55 minutes. It was an achievement I'm very proud of, to become the youngest British female to ever complete the race. But given my motivation was to raise awareness of the ability of people with epilepsy by taking on a really physically demanding challenge, I can't wait to do it again in purple and aim higher, with my own team, focused on raising funds for Epilepsy Action.”
Challenging the myth
If you have been denied access to cycling (including electrically assisted pedal cycles), cycling events and cycling clubs there are things that you can do. For example, it might help to show the service provider a copy of our position statement on cycling. This position statement explains the laws that protect people with epilepsy from disability discrimination. It also explains what reasonable adjustments can be made, to enable a person with epilepsy to safely enjoy cycling events.
As a next step you could use this template letter to further explain that you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your epilepsy.