"Pedal-less" Bicycles
for Special Needs Children and Adults
“JoRide” with Freedom and Independence - Forest & Bluff Magazine - March 2011
Eleven-year-old Joey Cohen helps others like him everyday—and he doesn’t even know it. By:  Paige Wagenknecht Joey Cohen always wanted to ride a bike.  He watched his siblings and classmates ride up-and-down his Northbrook neighborhood with the natural poise and self-assurance he lacked.  He just wanted to be a part of the group, but Joey’s autism made riding a bike a frustrating and tiresome task.

His father, manufacturing executive Steven Cohen, sometimes pulled him around in a pull-behind bicycle trailer called a Burley, but at eleven-year-old Joey was too big to fit. Steven determined to teach his son tied his feet to the petals with string, and later tape, but still his legs knocked around, unable to find the balance that seemed so effortless for others. An avid bike and motorcycle enthusiast, Steven started to meddle with the bike. He removed the pedals, then the chain, and continued to strip Joey’s bike until only two wheels and a frame remained.
Joey embraced the new bike, and walked it around his backyard for hours, an activity Steve named “JoRiding.”  In just a short time, Joey carefully crafted his ability to coast and balance, and gradually gained the skills and confidence to ride a standard-pedal bike. His son’s success inspired Steven to share the JoRide, and provide every rider, regardless of age or physical limitation, the ability, freedom, comfort and independence to learn how to ride a bicycle.

“JoRiding has provided my son Joey with balance skills as well as newfound confidence and independence. It can accomplish the same benefits for any rider,” said Cohen.   “Perhaps even more importantly, it helps individuals who have previously felt left out because they couldn’t get on a typical two-wheel bike and immediately get moving with others.”
“The beauty of the JoRide Walk/Ride Bicycle is that each rider naturally gains increasing control over their balance and coasting capabilities the more time they spend on the bike. Once they’ve mastered these basics, they’ll have achieved the required skill competency to step up to a traditional pedal bike.”

Cohen initially introduced JoRiding to the Center for Enriched Living in Riverwoods, Illinois.  Their success with the program led to partnerships with Northern Suburban Special Education District, North Suburban Special Recreation Association, Autism Speaks, Keshet, Special Kids Network, Have Dreams, and recently received an endorsement from Luis Columbus of the Beard Special Needs Institute in Chicago. 
“The JoRide bicycle program meets a core deficit which increases self-body awareness. A participant can learn at their own pace and build on their own successes,” said Columbus. “JoRide helps build a level of confidence and enhances the rider’s control of their own body, and space around them. This also helps with managing anxiety levels and gives plenty of positive feedback.”
Several private and public schools in towns like Lake Forest, Highland Park, Northbrook, Winnetka, and Glencoe use the JoRide program for students who have independent education programs. Many of the kids prefer the JoRide because of its recognizable BMX and standard pedal style, unlike any other previously used assisted technology. 

 “They know their brothers and sisters ride that kind of bike,” Cohen said,  “[They] have the same wants and needs, but just can’t convey it the same way.”

The bike has two different models, appropriately named “Freedom” and “Independence,” and the company will soon make a third bike, “The Prism.” All bikes are unisex and offered in a variety of sizes to fit youth, adolescent, and adult riders, and are available for individuals, schools, private therapy day education, and all other physical assistance locations. 
Bikes USA currently supplies JoRide,  and Steve is working on distribution agreements with Amazon and  thirty different websites, who will start to sell JoRide bikes in the next 4-6 weeks in addition to Bikes USA and the JoRide website.  Local media also noticed Cohen. NBC Chicago, ABC, WGN, WTTW’s Chicago Tonight and Crain’s featured JoRide and Cohen hopes the attention continues to grow. 
“The more exposure JoRide gets, the more people will understand that this is new style of riding is a growing venture for adults and children with special needs,” said Cohen.

The business’s fast growth doesn’t distract Steven from JoRide’s mission.  He continues to actively promote the program and never forgets the momentous role Joey plays in JoRide or how each day his son changes and inspires others just like him. 

“[Individuals] that once were not capable now have the freedom and independence to ride--taken away from them when they were little,” said Cohen.  “Joey is giving it back to them.”