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A Look Back: Blind Lincoln Doctor Knows No Traffic Fears, Rides Twin Bike

Article in the Nebraska State Journal (October 14, 1934) - Written by Don Sigler


Rephrase the old song hit "On a Bicycle Built for Two" to "Two Bicycles Built for One," and you will describe the latest means of transportation of Dr. Austin Wilson, blind Lincoln chiropractor.

Dr. Wilson, who has been getting about Lincoln streets with remarkable agility the past few years, riding especially constructed bicycles, is now "showing" his latest model.  His first bike had a side car attachment and was so constructed that he could ride it through the busiest traffic, with the aid of a steering passenger in the "rumble" seat.  This conveyance caused no little amount of attention when he would pedal down O Street.

But, his newest idea is even more original, and far more efficient.  With two bicycles fastened together by a sturdy framework which even includes front bumpers, either passenger can guide, and both have to do their share of the pedaling.

"It is much better than the old way," he declared, "for now whoever goes with me has to 'pay' for his ride, and he has an easier job of steering."

"All my fellow rider has to do is ride along and tend to his own business, occasionally telling me what is happening in the way of traffic, and we get along fine," he said, adding that just as long as his riding companion has "good sense" he has nothing to worry about.

The new Siamese twin arrangement, although the brain child of Dr. Wilson, was constructed by Everett Richie, who lives with the doctor, at 4631 Cooper Avenue.

"Most of the time Everett will probably ride with me," he said, "but when his part of the machine is detached I can attach any other bicycle and get in my 'road work'."

While bicycles as a means of transportation are particularly appealing to the doctor, he has traveled in almost every other known and approved way - even to "counting ties," as he describes one of his early in life trips when he walked along the railroad tracks from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  "I walked over trestles and bridges, going the entire way alone, and without a cane.  When I thought I was coming to town, I got down and felt the rails to 'see' which way to go," he declared.

Dr. Wilson, who is nearly 62, has been blind for half a century, having his sightless eyes removed when he was a youngster of twelve.

Blindness did not interfere with his hopes for an education, in fact he is better informed than many persons who enjoy their full facilities, for he reads and writes in German, Danish and Norwegian in addition to English, using the Braille system as his means of expression.

And, while on the subject of Braille, he can read and write in the monotype, English Braille in grades one, two and three, Braille short hand, American Braille (now obsolete), New York point and the line letter system.

Just for diversion this summer he made a word-for-word copy of the English-German dictionary of the New York public library, copying the seven volumes of Braille symbols with an air of satisfaction and enjoyment. 

He also writes in the regular pen or pencil technique, and he find the use of a typewriter very practical.

About 34 years ago, he founded the present Christian Record, blind publication which is now used in Lincoln.  The first issues were put out at Battle Creek, Michigan, where he then lived.  He was forced to retire from the publication activities when his health failed a few years later, and his wife took over the work of editing and managing the paper for many years.

Dr. Wilson has lived in Lincoln just half of his lifetime, coming here in 1903.  In 1913 he was graduated from the college of chiropractic, a profession which he has since followed.

Several years ago he startled the "unbelieving" when he proceeded to reroof his little home, climbing ladders and doing the tinning and shingling without aid.