When Portlander Julie Andrews slipped and broke her kneecap in December, she recalls coming across Kerr Bikes in an eager attempt to get outside and move despite being in a long leg cast. “I called right away,” she said. “I explained my situation and they told me to come on down. I was so excited about the possibility of riding a bike given my very limited mobility.”
If you’ve ever walked, run, or wheeled along Portland’s Eastbank Esplanade—or ventured around OMSI—you may have noticed a large red shed nearby overlooking the Willamette River. Staffed by a few kind humans who look after an array of unique specialty bikes, and most recently watercraft, the red shed is home to Kerr Bikes & Boats. This social enterprise benefits Albertina Kerr, a local nonprofit offering children’s mental health services and supportive residential care and programs for people experiencing intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).
Offering a wide variety of bicycle rentals—from electric bikes, tandems, and surreys to handcycles and adaptive mountain bikes—Kerr Bikes & Boats has a second location at Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park. With easy access to the Willamette River, inventory at the red shed also includes kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.
Kerr’s adaptive and inclusive model allows all abilities to enjoy cycling. “Perhaps you’re an older adult and haven’t been on a bike for a while but want to give it another go with some added support,” said Ryan Ross, manager of Kerr Bikes & Boats. “Maybe you’re active and want to ride but have trouble balancing; maybe you want to ride with a friend side-by-side in tandem, or perhaps you have an injury. This is a good place to come.”
Andrews tried a variety of adaptive bikes on her journey to recovery. “During my first visit, they set me up on a recumbent hand trike,” she said. “I remember the joy I felt as I was able to move along the bike path gazing at the east shore of the river. That feeling of excitement and independent freedom was so good for my body and spirit; it was just what I needed.”
With the goal of increasing cycling access for people with disabilities, Kerr Bikes & Boats, in partnership with the Portland Bureau of Transportation and Nike, also operates Adaptive BIKETOWN. As one of only a few bike-share programs across the country to include adaptive bikes, they can customize rides for each person’s individual needs. Plus, Kerr Bikes & Boats’ red shed location offers free parking, a safe place to store mobility devices, and a hit the pavement proximity to the Esplanade and Willamette River.
Andrews said the first fitting took a while due to the constraints of her casted leg. Each adaptive bike is adjusted to its rider’s needs, which can take 15 to 45 minutes, meaning reservations are important. “I felt like I had a team backing me up in what I was going through,” she said. As her recovery progressed, she tried different kinds of adaptive bikes. “I was so grateful to have Kerr as part of my active routine,” she noted. “I want to stay a part of this amazing program.”
Kerr Bikes’ rentals are extremely affordable: for people with disabilities, the first hour is free, and with rates as low as $5 an hour after, the program aims to reduce barriers. “Specialty bikes can be cost-prohibitive,” Ross said. “Kerr Bikes has a different mission—we’re human-centric.” Kerr Bikes & Boats also has a scholarship and apprenticeship program where folks can volunteer or work to gain experience.
Kerr Bikes & Boats and Adaptive Biketown will support FACT Oregon's All Ability Tri4Youth August 13th event—and all year long—with FREE 1-hour adaptive bike rentals for people experiencing any disability. For more information about FACT Oregon and the All Ability Tri4Youth program, visit www.factoregon.org.