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Free adaptive cycling program across NYC helps riders with disabilities. Participants say it's liberating.

Cyclists with disabilities say NYC program is helping them push forward
Cyclists with disabilities say NYC program is helping them push forward 01:56

NEW YORK - A new adaptive cycling program in the Bronx is giving riders with physical disabilities a new outlook on life.

The free program is happening in St. Mary's Park -- and citywide -- in partnership with Achilles International and Citi Bike. All bikes are provided on site and are adjusted based on a rider's needs.

"Every kind of disability is welcomed at Achilles," said Arielle Rausin, the Director of International Chapters at Achilles International. "Having workouts in all five boroughs across the city like this, every single week, is really life-changing."

All riders need to do is show up, which some say is the hardest part, but participants say coming to the program is a liberating feeling, and it's given them a brand new appreciation and outlook on life.

Athletes with disabilities who want to participate, or others who want to volunteer, can find more information and sign up online at

"You have to push forward"

There is no challenge Nelson Ortega can't take on, even during his biggest obstacles. He says he used to ride 80 miles per day before his life changed forever.

"I lost my leg three years ago to diabetes," said Ortega. "I could be an alcoholic or I could have committed suicide without this program."

Ortega says he got his life back the minute he got onto a specialized bike, where he uses his hands and arms to peddle.

"I'm a new person and guess what? I ain't giving up. I'm still out here biking, and I'm gonna continue until the day I drop," said Ortega.

"I used to come out and just look, so little by little I got involved. I wanted to be a part of it," said Bronx resident and participant Gem-Sharmon Still.

Still lost her leg to COVID-19 in 2020 and says that moment taught her the beauty in life.

"I had developed blood clots in my leg and I ended up on a ventilator," she said. "I didn't have to have this opportunity. I could've been a vegetable. I could've been dead ... Sometimes it's a struggle, but you have to push forward."

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