A blind cyclist will travel across the U.S. on a tandem bike to raise funds and awareness for sight restoration. The route will pass through St. Helens on June 19.
SEE International, a California-based ophthalmological nonprofit, recently announced “A Line of Sight,” an inspirational fundraising campaign. Chris Mairs, CBE, a tech entrepreneur from the United Kingdom, will ride a bicycle for 3,653 miles across America with the goal of raising funds for sight-restoring eye surgeries worldwide.
Mairs, who lost his sight at the age of 18 to a rare degenerative eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa, will pedal in the rear of his tandem bike, while his co-rider will steer and also pedal.
Mairs, recently turned 60 and hopes to raise funds for 60 eye surgeries each day, over the span of 60 days, and averaging 60 miles a day. In total, he plans to generate $144,000, which would restore sight to 3,600 men, women, and children suffering from impaired vision.
“Cataract surgery undertaken by the highly qualified SEE volunteers is one of the most cost-effective medical interventions in the world. I am incredibly excited to be helping them with this amazing work,” Mairs said.
Mairs’s commitment to preventing blindness has gained national recognition. In 2014, he was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). He is a lifelong athlete, having led the British Disabled Waterski team to victory in 3 world championships. He undertook his first long distance cycle ride in 2012 from Lands End to John o’Groats (end to end across the UK) covering 100 miles a day for 10 consecutive days.
Mairs co-founded the voice technology company Metaswitch Networks, and is now a Partner at Entrepreneur First. He is also a dedicated advocate for digital skills education, and serves as a trustee of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, putting the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world.
Alastair Heggie will be piloting the first half of the tour over the Rockies from Astoria to Sioux Falls. Heggie is currently meandering his way through a PhD in Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. In addition to cycling, he is an occasional fell runner, rock climber and sailor.
Heggie inherited a love of cycling from his father (whether he liked it or not). When he was 14 he went on a tour with his family from Gloucestershire to North Wales. Not put off by this experience, Alastair has since toured thought the UK, but this will be his first ride outside the island. On another trip through the mountains of Wales Alastair developed a healthy respect for oncoming vehicles on narrow roads after a fall from his bike. For this reason he is looking forward to the wide roads of America.
James Owers is currently studying for his PhD at the University of Edinburgh on Machine Learning and its application to Music. He will be the fresh legs taking the front seat on the second half of this epic tour. Bar cycling, Owers has also run the London Marathon, swum the Serpentine, and rock climbed in Kalymnos.
His first experience piloting a tandem was with Mairs, sleepily navigating the streets of London on the 100km ‘Nightrider’ in 2013, but Owers has toured many times. His favorite tour was a 6-day anticlockwise loop of the beautiful Scottish Highlands, from Inverness to Fort William in beautiful sunshine. He caught the cycling bug a decade ago when challenged to cycle from London to Edinburgh whilst raising funds for the charity Chennai Challenge.
Throughout his journey, Mairs will be blogging daily, documenting his ride, and educating the public about blindness, interspersed with amusing anecdotes from his ride and his life.
The ride begins in Astoria on June 18 and finishes it in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on August 7.
For more information, or to donate, visit https://www.seeintl.org/a-line-of-sight