LOCKPORT – Two disabled bicyclists stopped in Lockport on Monday to promote their third annual ride across the state along the Erie Canalway Trail.
John Robinson, who was born with stumps for arms, and legs consisting only of the portion above the knee, and Doug Hamlin, a quadriplegic since a 1983 trampoline accident, are riding again in the 12-day “Journey Along the Erie Canal.”
They left Sunday from Canalside in Buffalo; left Niawanda Park in the City of Tonawanda on Monday morning before their lunchtime stop in Lockport; and plan to reach Albany on July 10. They are co-founders of an organization called Our Ability, which seeks to raise awareness of the capabilities of the “differently abled.”
The ride this year also marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Their stop on Canal Street in Lockport was hailed by clients and executives of Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, as well as Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey, state Canal Corp. Director Brian U. Stratton and other local dignitaries.
Stratton recalled his reaction in 2013 when he was told the two men wanted to take a trip along the canal. He said his off-the-cuff response was “Boats, maybe?”
Robinson and Hamlin said their 2013 effort failed, as they were only able to make it about halfway across the state. “We had inferior equipment. We didn’t know what we were getting into,” Robinson said. “We had trained an awful lot, but you don’t know it until you get out here.”
After an upgrade in their specially designed three-wheeled vehicles, they made it last year, a 363-mile trip from Tonawanda to Albany. This year they added the Buffalo-Tonawanda segment to their route.
Robinson, 46, of Albany, said the Buffalo-Tonawanda ride Sunday lasted about two hours, and Monday morning’s Tonawanda-to-Lockport pedal lasted about 2½ hours.
“We’re trying to take our time, do it right, make sure we conserve our energy and spend time with the community as we meet people,” Robinson said. “The more awareness we can raise to the ability in all of us, the better off we are.”
The men are being accompanied on the road by their wives, Robinson’s two teenage daughters and a friend of Hamlin’s.