Cyclist who nearly died in 2009 crash returns to race weekend

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Cyclist who nearly died in 2009 crash returns to race weekend

Thousands of people are hitting the streets today for Ottawa Race Weekend — and for the first time in a decade, Robert Wein will be one of them.

In 2009, Wein was biking with four other cyclists on March Road in Kanata when they were struck from behind by the driver of a van.

The crash left Wein, an avid triathlete, with a brain injury and serious mobility issues. Doctors gave him a 50 per cent chance of surviving and told him he would never walk or cycle again.

Now, 10 years later, Wein is once again participating in race weekend. He'll be taking part in the two-kilometre race using what's called an "Alinker" walking bike — a pseudo-tricycle with two wheels in the front, one in the back, and no pedals.

Dutch invention

The Alinker was invented in the Netherlands and entered the market through a crowdfunding campaign earlier this decade. In 2016, it made its North American debut.

Wein told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Friday how he was initially a bit perplexed when he saw the Alinker for the first time.

"It was completely foreign," he said. "It's a walker, but not a walker. It's a bike, but not a bike. I didn't understand it at all."

Wein began training with the device, even meeting the inventor — who was inspired to design one for her walker-loathing mother — at one point. He said he realized it would allow him to regain skills he'd lost and let him do things he never thought he'd be able to do again.

For instance, Wein said, he'd never be able to take part in something like Saturday's 2K race with his standard walker.

"It would trip over and fall, because it's not [meant] for this. I couldn't complete events where I'm walking or running," he said.

'Not quitting'

After the crash, Wein founded the Brain Awareness Injury Walk, which has now been held seven times — most recently last summer in Andrew Haydon Park.

Wein said he hopes his experience shows people with acquired brain injuries and other disabilities that "everything is possible."

"How you do it is minor, on the whole," he said. "The point of it is completion — not quitting."