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Is cycling is dangerous if you have epilepsy? Myth-busting

This page is about National Epilepsy Week 2013. Find out how you can get involved in 2016.

Myth: Cycling is dangerous if you have epilepsy

Fact: People with epilepsy can cycle and take part in organised events

Person cycling

Cycling and epilepsy

People with epilepsy can and do cycle. There is no evidence to suggest that anyone with epilepsy should be stopped from cycling or denied access to cycling clubs, and cycling events. This includes ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs). To deny people access to these goods and services just because they have epilepsy is direct discrimination, and for this reason unlawful.

The evidence

People with epilepsy should consider their own health and safety when cycling. Uncontrolled seizures could impair awareness and/or cause someone to fall off their bicycle. If you have uncontrolled seizures you could take precautions to reduce the risk of an accident. These precautions might include wearing a helmet, cycling only with others and not cycling on public roads.

Stewart Kellett, Director of Recreation and Partnerships at British Cycling backs the position that people with epilepsy can enjoy cycling. Mr Kellett said: “Cycling is an activity that offers many health, environmental and social benefits. There’s no reason to suggest that anyone with epilepsy should be stopped from cycling or denied access to cycling clubs, and cycling events. It’s just a matter of deciding what type of cycle, route and safety precautions are best for you.”

Case study – Katie Ford

Katie Ford is a 27-year-old ultra-marathon cyclist, diagnosed with epilepsy when she was nine. She had surgery to treat her epilepsy which was successful and Katie learned to drive at the age of 18. One year after passing her test though, she had a breakthrough seizure and lost her driving licence, so she took up cycling. Katie says: "After losing my licence, I made the decision never to drive again because of the long gaps between my seizures, up to three years even. It was a blow to my independence having to plan journeys with military precision and rely on others for help, but my bike is the burst of freedom I get back. I don't have to plan, I'm able to just jump on my bike and go wherever I like round London, whenever I like."

“To me, it makes sense that, rather than save up for a car, I save up for a bike. There are draw backs obviously - it doesn't have a boot, I can't carry passengers and it's not the best form of transport for long distance journeys, but then again, it's mine and it's freedom to me. Living in such a big city, there's a big part of me that smiles inside when I'm not stuck in a car during peak time traffic."

"In 2008, aged 22, I chose to do the Race Across America, a 3,000 mile cycling race. I was part of a four-woman team cycling round the clock: we officially finished in eight days, six hours and 55 minutes. It was an achievement I'm very proud of, to become the youngest British female to ever complete the race. But given my motivation was to raise awareness of the ability of people with epilepsy by taking on a really physically demanding challenge, I can't wait to do it again in purple and aim higher, with my own team, focused on raising funds for Epilepsy Action.”

Challenging the myth

If you have been denied access to cycling (including electrically assisted pedal cycles), cycling events and cycling clubs there are things that you can do. For example, it might help to show the service provider a copy of our position statement on cycling. This position statement explains the laws that protect people with epilepsy from disability discrimination. It also explains what reasonable adjustments can be made, to enable a person with epilepsy to safely enjoy cycling events.

As a next step you could use this template letter to further explain that you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your epilepsy.  

Read all the myths we've busted during National Epilepsy Week

Take the epilepsy myth or fact quiz

Read more about National Epilepsy Week

Comments: read the 1 comments or add yours

Comments

I've had un-controlled absense seizures for 20 years now. As a result, I lost my driving licence and my job as a Painter & Decorator. My wife bought me a BSA push-bike to cheer me up. I take around 25 absense seizures every year but in the 20 years of riding my bike, I've only came off my bike 3 times and been attended by ambulance crews. This isnt bad for some-one who has so many seizures as I do. I love my bike and made a trailer for doing shopping trips. I do the shopping regularly at the local supermarket for the missus and try to beat my record each time I do a trip. My record is £125 worth of food etc. and I'm determined to break it. I would crack up if my bike was taken from me or I wasn't allowed to ride it any-more. I take as many precautions as I can though. I wear a helmet, wear a bright cycling bib, wear an arm band naming my illness with phone numbers on it and I stick to as many public parks or off-road routes as possible so I dont fall off in traffic. Not being conscious at the on-set of a seizure, I'm not sure how I end up on my back on the road. I've never had any serious injuries or blood or bruises. I do get a slight warning then I think I may lie down simply for safety's sake. (So I dont crash into something) If people would just look at my arm band first, instead of calling for an ambulance, it would save the guys coming. I think they do get annoyed and feel it was a totally bogus call. There is nothing they can do for me once I've recovered. It's a waste of time and fuel. I hope this is helpfull for someone. William.

Submitted by William Brown on