Posted on 11 November 2010.
By Jack Johnson, Boulder City Review
Bruce Humphreys stood straddling the back of his 21-speed tandem bicycle Friday, head slightly cocked upward as if surveying the activity in Wilbur Square park while soaking up the sun’s warm rays.
“Nice day today,” he said.
And it was. But Humphreys wasn’t looking at the man with the little dog running in the grass, and the wrap-around sunglasses he was wearing weren’t softening the glare of the clear blue sky, because Humphreys, you see, is blind.
Jerry McHugh, front, rides atandem bicycle with his blind friend, Bruce Humphreys, near Wilbur Square on Friday, Nov. 5. The pair ride twice a week and average between 10 and 15 miles per outing. Humphreys, who lost his vision to a degenerative retina condition 15 years ago, bought the tandem bike six months ago. H erides two days a week but is looking for additional partners so he can ride more. Photo by Steve Andrascik.
Though the Vietnam War veteran was formerly a sharpshooter and photographer, he completely lost his vision to a degenerative retina condition 15 years ago. But with a little help from a friend, he has been able to, once again, take part in another activity not typically expected of the blind.
“Other than needing someone to do the steering and see where you’re going,” riding on the back of a tandem bicycle while blind is a lot like riding a regular bicycle, Humphreys said. And bike riding is something he used to do a lot before he lost his sight.
It’s unfortunate, but many think “that because you’re blind, you’re also deaf and have no balance,” he said.
Humphreys first rode tandem bicycles at a blind center in Kentucky before he moved to Boulder City in 1992, but it wasn’t until about six months ago that he decided to buy a tandem bicycle for himself. Of course, he needed someone to pilot the bike and thought he had someone, but that person “flaked out,” he said.
So for a few months, the bike sat unused. But that changed when Jerry McHugh, who had been giving Humphreys rides to doctor appointments in Las Vegas for about three years as part of the Lend A Hand program, learned of the dilemma and decided to help Humphreys with another kind of ride.
Since they began riding a few months ago, McHugh and Humphreys have been going out about twice a week, at distances of between 10 to 15 miles. They’ve ridden all over Boulder City, to Henderson, and have even clocked a record speed, using a speedometer Humphreys bought, of 34 miles per hour going down B Hill.
Though there are obvious safety concerns one might suspect, McHugh said that other than the time they were chased by a dog, which grabbed ahold of the jacket tied around Humphreys’ waist, and the time the bike’s chain slipped while changing a gear, there have been no accidents or even close calls.
“I don’t think it’s dangerous at all,” McHugh said. “He’s got very good balance.”
And Humphreys has no fear because he is completely confident in McHugh’s piloting, even while riding along the heavy traffic of Nevada Highway.
“(Traffic) doesn’t really bother me because I really trust Jerry,” Humphreys said.
Although Humphreys feels safe with McHugh in front, he would like to ride more than McHugh has time for, and is looking for another cyclist to help out.
“I appreciate the two days a week he does (ride),” Humphreys said. “But I’d like to be able to do a couple more days.”
Humphreys said he could even go as far as 25 miles per day. There aren’t any expectations or requirements other than arm strength – the gears make the pedaling easy – and he is free most days of the week, except when he is bowling on Wednesdays (that’s right).
And whoever the new rider is, Humphreys said, he will trust them too.
“He’s very, very easy to get along with,” McHugh said. “He’s very open, he’s not demanding. We pick the route and he sits back there and pedals.”
So if anyone is interested in riding with Humphreys, they can call him at 293-0229. And if anyone has any questions for McHugh, he can be reached at 293-4729.
“I’m sure there will be some people that want to ride,” Humphreys said.