Why my best lockdown purchase was an adult tricycle - Joe Goldblatt

During the national lock down resulting from the pandemic I saw many more bicycles zooming by my front door. I also noted how the City of Edinburgh Council was rapidly adding more dedicated bike lanes to our city streets.

Joe with his 'smile making machine'
Joe with his 'smile making machine'

Each day I would sit in my lawn chair and wave to the cyclists whilst also envying their sense of freedom and the benefits they were receiving from this healthy exercise. It was at this time I began to hatch a plan to join them.

My quest to become a cyclist began with conducting searches on various online for an adult tricycle. I decided to expand to three wheels versus the traditional two to provide me with greater stability. I also occasionally poked my head into local cycling shops to inquire about how I could purchase an adult tricycle. Each time I told the cycle shop owners about my enthusiasm for cycling they smiled until I mentioned the third wheel and it turned out that when it came to adult tricycling there was a distinct bias toward two wheels.

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After several weeks of searching I found a bright yellow tricycle and it was located only a few miles from my home. I contacted the owner and he agreed to show me his trike. I hired a taxi and explained to the driver that we would be potentially collecting an adult tricycle and to my delight, he warmed to my adventure.

Upon meeting the owner of the bright yellow tricycle he explained that it was previously owned by his adult son who is disabled and it was used for local neighbourhood joy rides. He then invited me to try the trike and I found that despite the pouring rain, I could easily manage to pedal into my tricycling future.

On our way home we stopped at a cycle shop and the salesperson said that bike theft is a huge problem in Edinburgh and that I needed the strongest of all possible locks that was obviously named for marketing purposes as the “Kryptonite” lock. I was surprised to discover that this Superman strength lock cost half the entire price of my recently purchased tricycle.

The following day, I decided to take my maiden voyage. I needed to make a sharp right turn and learned that tricycles require a wider turning radius. Suddenly I flipped over and landed upon the pavement with a loud crash. The bright yellow tricycle was now on top of me and though somewhat dazed and blushing with embarrassment, I managed to slowly came to my senses and upright my vehicle. Undaunted, I carefully remounted my machine and slowly and this time more carefully made my way to the Meadows.

The Meadows is the perfect cycling course as the paths are flat, straight and well marked. As I tricycled along I soon realised I was driving more than a transportation device. The hundreds of happy faces that greeted me immediately made me realise I was now the captain of a genuine smile making machine.

A few days later I found a small silver horn with a black rubber bulb that when squeezed honked loudly and I quickly attached this to my tricycle. I also invited my wee dog CoCo to join me as my co – pilot while riding securely and comfortably in the basket behind my seat. Each day CoCo and I travelled through the Meadows we made more and more friends.

One way I greeted other skateboarders and cyclists as well as a few runners and asked “Want to Race?” Most just ignored me and a few giggled or laughed out loud. One or two said politely “No thank you.”

One morning I paused and noticed a young Muslim woman standing next to me wearing a colourful hijab and burka. I smiled down at her from atop my bright yellow tricycle and asked if she would like to race. To my surprise and delight she immediately responded while assuming a proper runner’s stance, looked me in the eye and said firmly “Let’s go!”

When the light changed we were off and we raced to the entrance of the Meadows. It was a tie. Despite her long gown and my very slow tricycle. we both gave our best efforts and had fun in the process. I then thanked her for the race and encouraged her to keep practicing and suggested that we might meet and race again upon a new day. She then reached over to gently stroke my CoCo pilot and we continued our gentle cruising through the Meadows.

I am delighted that our city has embraced the recreational and environmental benefits of cycling. I am also happy that thanks to my bright yellow tricycle CoCo and I may encourage a few more smiles during this otherwise sad time in the lives of many of our fellow citizens.

If you are of a certain age and fancy joining the many new younger cyclists in our city I encourage you to consider starting, albeit more slowly and modestly, with three wheels. After all, often it is the third wheel that has the added the unexpected benefit of producing smiles for myself and others as I tricycle through our inspiring city. And who knows, you and I might just one day race through the Meadows. If you hear my honking horn you may just wish to move over or join me in the next joy ride.

Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Queen Margaret Uiversity and with his dog CoCo drives a bright yellow tricycle. You may find him regularly in the Meadows experiencing The True Joy of Life. To purchase his memoir of the same title visit www.joegoldblatt.scot

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