Walking bike changes Coromandel woman’s life

Monday July 31, 2017 – JO GRIFFIN loves that people look at her at eye level now and that people, who in the past ignored her, now comment on what a cool yellow machine she is sitting on. 

Jo Griffin on her Alinker. Picture: Liam Kedzlie, Matarangi Beach Paper.

“They see me and not my disability,” the Matarangi Beach electrical services business owner says in response to a question about what a difference the Alinker three-wheeled walking bike has made in her life. 

Jo, married to Glenn, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) 28 years ago when she was 31. MS is a disease of the central nervous system that affects movement, sensation and body functions. 

Before the Alinker, she either walked with a walking stick or exerstriders or went in a wheelchair. 

“I am not able to walk long distances but I have always been very proactive when it comes to my health and wellness so exercise and diet have always been a priority,” she says. 

“When I discovered the Alinker I was blown away and could see so many positives for changing so many lives, mine included!” 

Jo has already made contact with the Alinker inventor, Barbara Alink from the Netherlands, who is in New Zealand on a whirlwind 18-day tour launching her invention and with Life Unlimited Charitable Trust, which has the exclusive New Zealand dealership. 

The pair will finally meet face-to-face on Sunday August 6 in Auckland. 

Barbara refers to the Alinker bike as a vehicle for social change. 

She gets no arguments from Jo who says the Alinker is a “life changer” for her. 

Jo had been told about the Alinker by a friend so she googled it and was drawn to it straight away. 

“I sent the link to my brother John, who lives in the United States, saying ‘isn’t this cool! what do you think?’ He said: ‘Jo, you’ve got to get one!’ I couldn’t really afford it but he said: “you can’t put a price on your quality of life’.” 

Life Unlimited general manager Enterprise William Hughes with Alinker inventor Barbara Alink © Life Unlimited 2017

As he was coming out to New Zealand for Mother’s Day in May, he offered to bring one out with him. 

“There will be some people who unfortunately will be unable to use the Alinker but for those who can, it gets you out of the house, works your quads, hamstrings and core all at once, is brilliant in shops and malls and you can be totally independent,” says Jo. 

“You can walk and talk with your partner or friends; it is all about inclusiveness, mobility and a sense of normality. 

“It does feel a bit strange at first but with a little practice and having it adjusted so that it is just right for you the feeling you get and the smile it puts on your face is priceless.” 

The Alinker is a non-motorised walking bike without pedals; is challenging assumptions about people with disabilities and building a more inclusive community. 

Barbara’s mother Antonia Esman gave her the seed for the invention when she passed some elderly people with walkers and scooters saying: “over my dead body will I ever use one of them”. 

Part way through designing something better for her mother, Barbara realised what was needed was a vehicle for social change. 

It was first introduced in the Netherlands three years ago and last year into North America. 

The interest in New Zealand came about when Wellingtonian Christine O’Sullivan, who has had MS for 10 years, bought an Alinker offshore and rode it around Wellington waterfront. 

It attracted plenty of attention, which resulted in additional publicity in April when Radio New Zealand (RNZ) featured Christine and the Alinker online and on air. 

After persistent pleading from Christine, and confirmation that Life Unlimited Charitable Trust would be New Zealand’s sole distributor, Barbara embarked on her whirlwind tour of New Zealand starting on July 22 in Hamilton, taking in Tauranga, Rotorua, Gisborne, Wellington, Christchurch and finishing in Auckland on Tuesday August 8.