Blind World Magazine

Blind man keeps bicycles on the road.

Friday, October 28, 2005.
Rocky Mount Telegram - Rocky Mount,NC,USA.

Ed Haight was legally blind before he was old enough to drive a car, so bicycles became his addiction.

Haight got his first pair of glasses when he was 4 years old. Seven eye surgeries and 38 years later, his right eye - the good one - has 20-400 vision.

But that has never kept him off a bicycle. If anything, it fed the craving that led him to own 98 different bicycles for personal use during the last 45 years.

In the late 1980s, Haight rode his Huffy White River mountain bike, the 78th bike he had owned, more than 6,300 miles in an 18-month span. The rides weren't always smooth.

"When I was 5, I ran over a little old lady because I didn't see her coming down the sidewalk," said Haight, who moved from Kane, Penn., to Sharpsburg in 2001. "I ran into the side of a house in 1983 and ... got nine stitches and a shiner."

Haight said he has not wrecked a bicycle since he lost vision in his left eye 12 years ago.

A 45-year-old man with light brown hair, thick-frame glasses and a Tom Selleck-like mustache, Haight limits his riding these days to occasional trips to the post office and a few laps up and down the gravel driveway outside his trailer. He focuses more on building and repairing bicycles, something his father taught him to do when Haight was 7.

Sharpsburg's public works director, William Pittman, delivers bicycles, or their remains, that the town retrieves from roadsides. In exchange, Haight provides the department with a free bicycle that he has repaired any time the town requests one for a needy child.

Pittman said the deal works well for both parties, because Haight gets bicycle parts for free, and the town doesn't have to fill the landfill with old bicycles.

"He was in here paying his light bill to the town and happened to strike up a conversation with me," Pittman said. "He's not only benefitting himself, he's benefitting the town. We're scratching one another's backs."

About eight years ago, Haight began building bikes with matching length and gear numbers. He said he hopes to patent the idea soon. His prototype is a black and gold 24-inch, 24-speed bike.

Haight, who refers to himself as "the MacGyver of bikes" because he sometimes uses old bicycle parts to fix cars and other things, said his blindness has not so much hindered his work on bicycles as it has changed his approach.

"I do a lot more things by feel," he said, adding that his glasses do not help him see to repair and build. "They just keep me from running into things."

Barbara Heintz, Haight's neighbor who has purchased two bikes from him, said he's almost always outside at his storage shed working on something.

"I've never seen a man that can barely see that can get out there and do what he does," Heintz said.

Haight may not be a man who can barely see much longer. On Nov. 8, he's having surgery to place an artificial retina in his left eye.

"It started with me reading an article in the paper about them making the artificial retina," he said. "I told them to put it in the left because the left eye, it has nothing to lose."

Regardless of how the procedure goes, Haight will still tinker with bicycles.

"I don't make a lot of money, but it's fun," Haight said. "After all these years, it's still fun."

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