The bicycle is making life better again, thanks to trishaws piloted by chatty volunteers who help take residents from nursing homes for rides on trails and back out in the community they love. The Cycling Without Age (CWA) program brings smiles to the passengers, their family members, and the volunteers who pilot trikes. Even passers-by seem to share in the sense of happiness when they see the trishaws pedaling people through the community with the sunshine on their faces and wind in their hair.

What is Cycling Without Age?

Cycling Without Age is an international program that brings people of all ages and abilities together by connecting volunteer pilots and elderly passengers for an outdoor adventure by trishaw, a trike with two wheels and a seat in the front pedaled by a volunteer in the back. The program, started in 2012 in Copenhagen by Ole Kassow, proves how a simple bicycle ride can reduce feelings of loneliness and help reconnect people with their communities and boost the well-being of all involved.

How can the Bike Fed help: 

The Bike Fed has been helping to establish and manage CWA programs across the state since 2012. Interested organizations can look to the Bike Fed website for guidance, forms, and other resources needed to start a new CWA program. Our experienced staff can guide those who are interested from concept to kick-off. Our program includes help with community outreach, program planning, fundraising, trishaw purchase, pilot training, ride schedules, community kick-off events, and even preventative and regular trike maintenance. We can even bring a trishaw and trained pilot for a demonstration event with rides to help generate community interest.

Getting a trishaw:

The trishaws can be ordered at local bike shops in Wisconsin, or online at the Cyclingwithoutage.org website. They cost $7,400 – $11,000 plus shipping from Copenhagen. Depending on your order method and the supply chain, you may receive your trishaw anywhere from two weeks to nine months.

Help with fundraising and grants:

The Bike Fed can help develop a program budget and fundraising goals. We recommend establishing a fund to collect donations, then hosting an event to introduce the concept in your community. We can bring a trishaw and a trained pilot who will give rides so you can invite the local media, people interested in volunteering as pilots, potential passengers, and their families. Grants are available to skilled nursing facilities through CMP reinvestment funds.

Trishaw pilot training:

Volunteers pedal the trishaws and each program has its own guidelines, but pilots are typically over 16 years old, have a valid driver’s license, and have completed the training to become a CWA Pilot. Pilots do not need to be particularly strong as these trishaws are battery-powered with electric pedal assist. Simply start pedaling and the battery-powered motor gives a noticeable boost, making it easy to push the heavy trike up hills and go longer distances. The oldest pilot is 90 years old!

All pilots affiliated with the Wisconsin Bike Fed’s CWA programs are trained and complete a road skills test. Training includes rules of the road, trishaw handling skills, overview of the trishaw, best practices for maintenance, how to make each and every ride a complete joy, and sensitivity training to help recognize and communicate with people of all abilities. 

Passengers and accessibility:

Anyone can ride in the trishaws! CWA passengers tend to be people who are no longer able to pedal on their own and are often accompanied by a companion such as a friend, partner, relative, or even a grandchild. Trishaws are easy to board; some drop a footrest, others remove the footrest, but in most cases, it is like sitting down on a couch.

Choosing routes:

Trishaws can go just about anywhere. In Wisconsin, they are legal vehicles and allowed on all roads just like bicycles. But the best routes are low-traffic neighborhood side streets and trails through parks. These trishaws help people experience the beautiful community trails they may never have been on and ride through old neighborhoods that spark fond memories.

Safety:

Bicycling is the second safest mode of transportation in the world (second to rail) and these proven trishaws are stable and slow-rolling so the passengers don’t miss a thing.

Insurance:

Trishaw rides are typically considered just another program at many community organizations, and are part of their general program insurance. The Bike Fed does recommend using waivers for both passengers and pilots. We have templates for those waivers that can be adapted to different organizations. Some volunteer recruiting organizations also offer additional insurance coverage for volunteers. Bike Fed staff can help with all of this.

More information:

All the information mentioned above and more can be found on the Bike Fed’s Cycling Without Age webpage. We are updating the information and resource library regularly and you can sign up to receive our weekly e-newsletter updates to be the first to know when new resources are available!

If you love the feeling of a bike ride and wonder how you can share this feeling with others who can no longer ride, contact us for ideas on how to start a CWA program in your community. Cycling Without Age now has more than 35,000 volunteers around the world, and we can’t wait to help you become one of them.

Contact the Bike Fed to find or start a program in your community: 
Michelle Bachaus
Community Engagement and Cycling Without Age Program Manager
michelleb@wisconsinbikefed.org

Photo credit: Dave Horst, featuring Estella of Nelson Family Heritage Crossing-bridging Little Chute and Kaukauna, WI