It’s the ultimate trust exercise: Riding a tandem bike with your sister because you’re blind.
Steve Aylward did just that with his sister, Erin, in the first Cycle for Sight event Sunday in St. John’s.
Steve, a lawyer in Toronto, came home to Newfoundland to participate in the ride. He has retinitis pigmentosa, which is a genetic condition that affects his family in varying measures.
Steve, a member of the board of directors of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, has been gradually losing his sight over the last 15 years.
“A large number of the population here are afflicted with retinal eye disease and other blinding eye conditions,” Steve said Sunday, as the tour hit St. John’s to raise money.
Getting back on a bike was a big day for Steve.
“This is the first time I’ve been on a bicycle in 15 years. It’s a degenerative eye condition so I used to be able to ride when I was younger,” he said.
“I’ll tell you, there’s nothing as terrifying as going down a hill at 50 kilometres per hour when you don’t know what’s going on, but I was in good hands,” he said.
Steve’s sister Erin, a PhD candidate in political science as well as gender and women’s studies at the University of Toronto, was the captain of their tandem team.
“I’m a cyclist and I’m normally on a bike anyway,” Erin said.
“It just seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine a cause that I really care about with a way of getting around that I really like.”
This was both Erin and Steve’s first time using a tandem bike.
“I was way too overconfident at first. I was thinking, ‘I’m a cyclist. I’ve got this covered,” Erin said.
They practised only once, the day before the ride; it was a rocky start, but they kept the bike upright, which was the main concern.
“It was a bit of a learning curve, but I would say a lot more fun because you have a constant partner,” said Erin.
Being the eyes of the team was interesting for Erin “because it’s something you just take for granted,” she said.
April Watts, the national event manager at the Foundation for Fighting Blindness, said there was a fantastic turnout despite the rain.