Local Dad Builds a Special Bike for a Special Community

Steven Cohen built a bike for his 11-year-old son Joey, who has autism, and in the process created a tool that brings special needs kids and adults independence and joy.

And his JoRide bike (aptly named after his son) is getting lots of attention.

Already, local news outlets have praised Cohen for creating a bike that surmounts the motor processing and balance issues of individuals with disabilities—at less than $200 apiece. And while there are other adaptive bikes out there, his is one of the first that families and nonprofit organizations can actually afford.

Like many great inventions, Cohen fell upon it out of necessity. “All last summer, Joey would take his brother’s BMX bike and walk around with it on the driveway,” he explains. “Despite the pedals and crank banging into his shins, he was determined to ride a bike by himself.”

Putting his machinery background to work, Cohen disassembled the BMX bike with the help of his other sons, leaving a frame, two wheels, the seat and rear brake. The end product was the JoRide.

“Even though he’s nonverbal, Joey is a great communicator,” says Cohen. “Creating this bike with him affirmed what so many of us forget about kids with autism. It was his idea, and now he can teach others.”

So how does it work? A rider sits on the seat, knees bent and feet planted firmly on the ground. Using a walking or running motion, he or she propels the bike forward, getting the wheels spinning and building up to a gliding speed.

“At any time, riders can plant their feet and stand, which takes away a lot of the anxiety,” Cohen says. It is also an invaluable tool for building better balance, motor processing and physical exercise—something many local special needs organizations and school districts have been quick to appreciate.

“The JoRide fosters independence for students who struggle with riding a standard bicycle,” says Danielle Carter, Early Childhood/Everyday Life Skills coordinator for Northern Suburban Special Education District (NSSED). “It opens the door to another recreational activity for children and adults with special needs outside of school.” NSSED plans to incorporate the JoRide Bicycles into adapted physical education classes.

Equally significant, because the JoRide is essentially a typical bike with a few clever modifications, kids and adults who ride it are able to participate in an activity in a conventional way. “The normalization JoRide offers can’t be underestimated,” says Susan Baker, a former administrator and current partner of Advocacy Associates for Educational Rights. “Special needs kids and adults can participate as equals.”

School districts across the state are reaching out to Cohen, and the first 5,000 bikes are in production at USA Bikes Inc. of Bethlehem, Penn. While Cohen has hit the jackpot when it comes to new inventions with a potentially significant customer base, it’s more than just business to this dad.

“Joey can be out there being a leader and making friends,” Cohen says. “JoRide challenges the idea that his autism predetermines who he can be.”

The JoRide can be purchased on the company’s website, joride.com, and will soon be available nationally through Amazon and other big box retailers.