THE BLOG

What Legacy Means to Me

10/09/2014 11:38 BST | Updated 08/11/2014 10:59 GMT

The buzz word in the build-up to the London 2012 Games was legacy. In 2007 Lord Coe stated that the lasting legacy of the Games was at the heart of the vision from day one. Two years on from the closing ceremony of the Paralympics, legacy means different things to different people. Legacy can mean building world class sporting venues to inspire future Champions. It can be about inspiring people to undertake physical activity and getting the nation healthier. While others see it as platform to show the world that having a disability doesn't stop people achieving their dreams.

Such a wide interpretation of the term legacy means that it is often intangible and difficult to measure. Catching the tube after the closing ceremony from Stratford into the City, it became apparent that people had been treated to something special, they felt a part of it. Their eyes glistened with excitement and you could hear a constant hum of noise as people shared what they had just been a part of. I had been hidden away as I prepared to race and not experienced the buzz that was being talked about in the media. Now I got to enjoy it like everyone else as I merged into the carriage.

The glistening eyes and the humming noise of London hasn't disappeared. Pulling out the gold medal, often from my grubby pocket - I see children's and adult's eyes light up. It takes them back to London 2012; a period in time where perceptions of disability changed for the better. People saw what can be done, rather than can't. I certainly don't see myself as superhuman as depicted on Channel 4, but at the same time I enjoyed the narrative that gave people a broader context of an athlete's disability.

Without some understanding of a person's disability, the performance can't be truly appreciated. Some criticised it for raising people's expectations of disability. I on the other hand disagreed. I always think back to the pigeonhole that was made for me - I would neither walk nor talk and need constant care. But my expectations and those around me were different, barriers were overcome and many fruits have been enjoyed. Expectations, ambitions, dreams shouldn't be led by what disability you have, rather what you want in life. I think London 2012 showed that to young and old people.

My role model in sport has been Darren Kenny - class on a bike, meticulous in his approach, and driven. I have been fortunate to have ridden with him since 2005 but before that disabled role models were non-existent for me. Whilst I'm realistic that London 2012 won't solve all prejudice associated with disabilities, it has created numerous role models and shown that people can push the boundaries of what is expected of them, whether they live with a disability or not.

Another possible legacy from London 2012 and indeed Beijing in 2008 has been the huge rise in popularity of both leisure and competitive cycling. As a leisure pursuit and a means of transport, cycle's popularity is increasing. This has caused more competition for space on British roads. Many drivers and riders are respectful and appreciate each other's space, but some don't. As James May said in a recent interview 'we need to get rid of bike s sectarianism.' Sharing road space rather than fighting for it. I would like the roads to become safer, especially for children. I used to love racing around the streets as a boy. Now I would be worried letting my future children ride on the roads. Depriving them of the fun I had.

Legacy can sometimes be viewed as an abstract concept. For me, London 2012 showed the country and the world that an athlete - whether able bodied or not - is an athlete and that a disability need not define people. Of course disabled people still experience discrimination on a daily basis but I believe London 2012 is part of a longer process which will help to change attitudes. Likewise, the Games helped to continue the country's love affair with the bicycle. But more needs to be done to keep this flame burning and to make sure that our streets are safe to both cycle and walk on, particularly for children on their school run. The benefits of a cycling revolution are clear - people become healthier, there is less congestion and less carbon output. Now is the time for the government to capture this enthusiasm and get even more people on their bikes by making sure our streets are safe and in good condition. That would be true legacy.

To email your MP to demand that all children should have a safe journey to school visit Sustrans' Campaign for Safer Streets website. To join in the conversation look up #safetoschool.

View the new Sustrans Campaign for Safer Streets video here.