What started as a personal mission to reintroduce a passion for outdoor adventure for Tecla user Ian Mackay soon evolved into a larger goal to increase accessibility of public spaces for wheelchair users. This month, we spoke to Ian on his upcoming ride across Washington State to raise awareness and get more wheelchair users exploring their local environment.
Ian Mackay lives in Port Angeles, Washington where his hobbies include exploring trails, craft beer, nature photography, and bluegrass music. Everything changed when a bike accident left Ian a high-level quadriplegic. In his blog he wrote, “I’d lost everything that I was accustomed to. I’d left my home and my friends, my school and my job, been removed from the life that I loved. I was lost, getting deeper and deeper in the dumps.” After about a year, Ian realized that it was up to him to adjust to life with quadriplegia. He was introduced to Tecla, which gave him access to an iPhone and the confidence to be more independent. Ian told us that access to mobile technology “got me outside, out of my funk, and helped me to find myself again.” Now, Ian pushes for better access to public spaces for others in wheelchairs through his nonprofit, Ian’s Ride.
The mission of Ian’s Ride is to "advocate at every opportunity for outdoor accessibility. This means not only encouraging the mobility impaired to get outside but to advocate for policy change regarding safe and connected infrastructure for those not in cars." As he investigated various policies to see what his government was doing to expand their infrastructure and make trails and cities more accessible, he realized that many of the things he was advocating for aligned with cyclists.
Cities in North America are grappling with environmental impacts, expensive gridlocks, and safety concerns that have stemmed from designing its transportation system primarily for automobiles. While bike lanes are increasing safety and making it easier for people to rely less on buses and cars, there is a stark reality that many cities are behind in building an accessible system for wheelchair users. When Ian started Ian’s Ride, he knew first hand how timid many wheelchair users are of pushing the limits of their electric chair and to navigate an infrastructure primarily designed for cars. “With access comes independence and more productivity. What I want is for us to be able to get from point A to point B without having to use a car.”
Ian’s Ride 2018 Overview
For two weeks in August, Ian will be travelling across Washington state, starting in Idaho, on a new route he and his team mapped out. Along the way, Ian will be stopping at various landmarks and inviting other wheelchair users to meet up and join him for a section of the route. In his previous ride, the main app he used on his iPhone with Tecla to map out his route and keep track of statistics was Strava. This year, in addition to Strava, Ian plans to use Ride with GPS, an app that allows you to map, analyze, record, and share your rides with other users.
Born and raised in Southern California, Ian didn’t have much exposure to the rugged and mountainous landscapes that Washington is known for, but that doesn’t mean he’s avoiding heights on his upcoming ride. Ian estimates that the 2018 route will include tackling over 25,000 ft of climbing. Here is Ian’s Ride 2018 by the numbers:
- 13 days long
- Approximately 500 miles
- 25,000 ft of climbing elevation
- Outside temperatures up to 105 ºF
- 2 States: Idaho and Washington
- 1 National Bike Route: USBR 10
- 1 Native American reservation: Colville Reservation
- 2 Mountain Passes: Washington Pass and Loup Loup Pass
- 1 National Park: Ross Lake National Recreation Area
Day 1, August 12: Coeur d’Alene to Spokane
Day 2, August 13: Spokane to Davenport
Day 3, August 14: Davenport to Hesseltine
Day 4, August 15: Hesseltine to Whitmore Lookout
Day 5, August 16: Whitmore Lookout to Okanogan
Day 6, August 17: Okanogan to Winthrop
Day 7, August 18: Winthrop to Bridge Creek
Day 8, August 19: Bridge Creek to Newhalem
Day 9, August 20: Newhalem to Darrington
Day 10, August 21: Darrington to Getchell
Day 11, August 22: Getchell to Edmonds
Day 12, August 23: Edmonds to Discovery Bay
Day 13, August 24: Discovery Bay to Home
Ian hopes to raise $10,000 in donations and corporate sponsorships to help fund his ride. Money raised through iansride.com will go towards food and hotel expenses for Ian and his crew, as well as supplies needed for the long journey. For example, two of Ian’s biggest concerns are the battery life and durability of his electric chair and the scorching summer temperatures in the Eastern Washington desert. In addition to 4 1/2 foot-long dreadlocks that keep Ian hot, quadriplegia makes it difficult to regulate body temperature in extreme heat. Therefore, Ian hopes to get his hands on a Cooling Vest, commonly used by individuals with multiple sclerosis who experienced worsened symptoms in the heat.
The best way to connect with Ian is through social media, especially on Twitter. Ian receives direct messages from wheelchair users who want to meet up and explore some of the spots that his route passes through. Ian’s Ride also holds events throughout the year, like the upcoming “Ride Rainier” taking place on July 31st at Mount Rainier National Park. Last year, Ian led a group of 25 wheelchair users to the top of the snow-capped Mount Rainier. “So many people live near the park and have never been up there.” Follow Ian’s Ride at @iansride2016 and Tecla at @get_tecla to stay up-to-date and support Ian on his journey to a more inclusive America.