DECEMBER 10, PENTICTON – “The right to feel the wind in your hair” is the tagline of Cycling Without Age, an international volunteer-driven program that takes elderly, often shut-in, residents out for bike rides. The distinctive electric bikes are a three-wheeled trishaw that enable a volunteer to pedal 1 or 2 passengers in a safe, padded bench complete with seat belts in front of the Pilot.
The design of the bike intentionally places the passengers right “in the seat of the action” as Penticton Chapter Founder, Neil Pritchard says with a smile, “for many of our passengers, outings from their care homes are in cars, buses… from one climate-controlled environment to another. The trishaws move them safely around, but they have the opportunity to have a much more sensory, front-row experience. People walking by greet them, they love the fresh air and the sensation of movement through our beautiful city.”
Pritchard first heard of Cycling Without Age via a TED Talk. Cycling Without Age is a global grassroots movement invented in Copenhagen in 2012 that is rapidly growing across the world. In 2019 it is represented in 42 countries with 1,643 chapter locations. Pritchard quickly saw that Penticton, a city which prides itself on being a cycling destination, could use this program to extend the joy of being on a bike to those who are much less mobile. He also saw it as a way to bring generations together through experiences.
The Penticton Chapter launched in 2018 and the volunteers are screened, trained and supported by OneSky Community Resources to provide safe, free rides to the seniors of Penticton. Currently the rides are coordinated through a number of aged care homes within Penticton. The initiative has been made possible through the generous donation of 2 trishaw bikes by Cascade Aqua Tech Ltd, a company Pritchard also founded and has since retired from directing. The Bike Barn has been a huge supporter, providing maintenance and repairs to the trishaws. The Hamlets care facility stepped up early to provide storage and a charging station for the trishaws. Finally, Cowork Penticton helped enormously at the beginning with promoting Cycling Without Age to the wider community.
The Penticton Chapter has grown quickly and garnered the praise of Ole Kassow, the founder of Cycling Without Age International. Kassow visited Penticton this past summer and met with volunteer pilots from the Penticton and Vernon chapters, offering tips and swapping stories.
“Ole was impressed and showed great interest in the rapid uptake of volunteers and the number of rides the Penticton Chapter has provided” shares Tanya Behardien, Executive Director with OneSky Community Resources. “The volunteers provided 1,350 rides this year and Cycling Without Age International observed the Penticton Chapter is providing more rides per year than any other city in North America.”
That’s a pretty impressive performance for a community of 34,000 people. How do the passengers feel about the rides? As Shirley Oglisky, a 75 year-old passenger aboard a trishaw put it; “I’m not getting off. Let’s go again!” This is a common theme among passengers who look forward to the scenery, the adventure, and the conversations that ensue during the outing. Volunteers also find the program and outings rewarding. Lynn Cook, one of the more than 40 volunteers, put it this way “It just makes my heart sing”.
The local chapter has big plans in 2020. Two more trishaws will join the fleet and they aim to be delivering 800 rides a month for a total of 5,000 rides for Penticton Seniors in the year. It is a big goal, but with the growth and popularity of the program so far, it feels attainable to the volunteers. This level of service would make the Penticton Chapter a global leader in the program.
Pritchard sees Cycling Without Age as a community initiative that reduces social isolation and brings people together over stories and experiences all the while experiencing the beautiful Penticton scenery. He encourages anyone seeing the distinctive red trishaws to wave or give a friendly honk, “the passengers really like to greet and be greeted by passersby. The waves, smiles and toots of the horn make them feel like they are in the Peach Festival Parade. It definitely adds to the experience. It makes them feel special and it is fun for the Pilots as well”.
If readers want to help the program continue to thrive, the Penticton Chapter is putting out a call for more volunteers to join the Pilot team. The Pilots go through a screening and training process and must be able to commit to riding 2-3 hours a week. The program is also raising funds to acquire the new specialty bikes and OneSky can provide a charitable receipt for any gifts. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer or learning more about the program should contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://cyclingwithoutage.ca/penticton/.
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About Cycling Without Age
Cycling Without Age is a global grassroots movement invented in Copenhagen in 2012 that is rapidly growing across the world. In 2019 it is represented in 42 countries with 1,643 Chapter locations. Its main purpose is engaging seniors or less-abled citizens by offering them free bike rides in specialized bicycles that provide the opportunity to remain an active part of society and to experience life beyond the confines of their residence or care centre. Local volunteers called ‘Pilots’ visit homes, care and senior centers/facilities around the community and offer rides on the trishaw. Being out in nature and with the Pilots, nurtures social connections and emotional well-being.
About OneSky Community Resources
OneSky is a social services organization that has provided a range of community programs for individuals and families at every stage of life in the South Okanagan/Similkameen for more than 50 years. The society’s mandate is to clear a path to hope, health and potential through quality programs, partnerships and community initiatives.
|Neil Pritchard, Cycling Without Age
Founder & Volunteer with Penticton Chapter
|Tanya Behardien, OneSky Community Resources