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Trailblazing Accessibility: Central Oregon Trail Alliance Enhances Mountain Bike Trails for Adaptive Riders

The Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA) announced a project to increase mountain bike trail accessibility for adaptive riders in Bend, Oregon. In collaboration with key leaders in accessible recreation, COTA aims to promote accessible riding opportunities in Central Oregon.

During May (2023), a team of adaptive mountain bikers will assess 100 miles of trails near Bend, including the trail experience, trailhead facilities and accessibility barriers. The project is managed by Empowering Access, a disability equity and inclusion consulting organization founded by Ashley Schahfer. The on-the-ground team will be led by Quinn Brett and Joe Stone of Dovetail Trails. Their expertise will ensure that the project provides tangible data, recommendations and education to facilitate an inclusive trail environment. Additional project partners include Oregon Adaptive Sports (OAS), a nonprofit that guides adaptive athletes on outdoor adventures in Central Oregon, and the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), which facilitated a private grant to support the work.

An example of a sign with information useful for mountain bikers using adaptive bikes.
An example of a sign with information useful for mountain bikers using adaptive bikes. (Central Oregon Trail Alliance)

During the assessment, the team will ride trails and document key components such as trailhead accessibility, tread width, grade and cross slope. This information will then be publicized so that adaptive riders can make informed decisions about what trails they would like to ride. Often, the biggest barrier preventing an adaptive mountain biker from accessing a trail is simply lack of information.

“I’m excited to put Central Oregon on the map for the adaptive cycling community,” said Abbie Wilkiemeyer, COTA’s volunteer project manager. “Other communities are using universal design to open trails of all difficulty levels to adaptive mountain bikers. If they can do it, we can do it. All of the COTA volunteers participating in the assessments are looking forward to the opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t for riders on different equipment on trails.”

COTA is a nonprofit dedicated to the development, protection and enhancement of the Central Oregon mountain biking experience. COTA maintains over 600 miles of singletrack trails across six chapters. Kudos to COTA on their commitment to support adaptive riders and enhance accessibility! Are trails accessible in your area?

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