The Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services joins the Wisconsin Bike Fed in bringing wellness through biking to all ages and abilities.

Cycling Without Age (CWA) is a social program that uses the pedal power of a bicycle, technically a tri-shaw, to reduce isolation and increase intergenerational connections. Volunteer pilots chat with passengers who sit on a comfortable seat up front as they are pedaled around town, on trails and streets, often down memory lane. The first ride was given by CWA founder Ole Kassow in 2012, through the streets of Copenhagen. In 8 short years, after expanding globally in 2015, the program is in 52 countries and nearly every state in the US, with Wisconsin’s very own Fox Cities showing the most rapid growth nationwide. 

Wisconsin has 5.88 million residents, 336,000 (17.5%) of whom are older than 65, and as of 2019, 384 certified nursing homes. Cycling Without Age is established in over 100 locations of all types across the state, the Bike Fed has provided assistance to at least 50 CWA chapters. The Bike Fed has a long list of federally-certified nursing homes that have reached out for technical support for the CWA programs, from conceptual to emerging to established. With Civil Money Penalty Reinvestment Program (CMP) funding, the Bike Fed will be able to address their needs. 

The $151,000 grant will fund efforts to approximately double the number of trishaws over three years. The expansion will bring together 20 new educators, nearly 300 pilots and thousands of passengers reaching each corner of the state.

While the funding focuses on support to 54 certified nursing homes to implement CWA, the Bike Fed has promised to reach an additional 90 events/communities which are outside the scope of the grant. “We focus on finding those who have the greatest need and helping them create the same opportunities community wide” says Michelle Bachaus, Bike Fed Community Engagement Manager, who will be managing the 3-year program.

Funds will be used for expansion through program development and enhancement, awareness through public events and education, new staff/educator positions and technical support. We will meet with skilled nursing facility directors, local advocates and community health and planning experts to develop interest and provide guidance to implementation. Bike Fed staff will attend local events with our tri-shaws to let people experience the joys of going for a ride as well as being part of the excitement of sharing the trail or road with a tri-shaw. The Bike Fed will be contracting with a web designer to offer reference guides, trishaw maintenance, forms and templates, and networking opportunities to the CWA page of our website. These resources will be available to all in the coming months, as they are created, at WisconsinBikeFed.org

“Michelle Bachaus was instrumental in helping Stevens Point launch the first Cycling Without Age program in Central Wisconsin in 2018. Michelle guided us through the process of how to order a trishaw, train pilots and fundraise. Cycling Without Age Portage County now has six trishaws with sixty trained pilots serving a wide variety of residents from older adults living at assisted living facilities to students at the Stevens Point Area School District. We could not have done it without the guidance and enthusiastic support of Michelle Bachaus of the Wisconsin Bike Fed. “ -Tori Jennings, President of the Portage County Cycling Without Age program

To further share the opportunity to the fullest, we will be adding 4 CWA safe cycling educators who will help develop programs across the state. These contracted educators will assist with program enhancement in targeted skilled nursing facilities, including a public event to introduce the skilled nursing facility program, how vehicles can safely share the road with trishaws, and pilot training. As these educators become more experienced with CWA, their hours and responsibilities will expand to include outreach and coordination.

“The mental health of our residents is always a priority and was identified as a significant area of need in our recent community health needs assessment. Cycling Without Age will promote protective factors that build a sense of belonging and social connectedness and we couldn’t be more excited to bring the program to our skilled nursing facility, Hillside Manor.” -Emily Dieringer, Marshfield Medical Center- Beaver Dam Community Benefits Coordinator

CWA provides opportunities for all to safely experience the joy of cycling along trails, greenways, and city bike routes. Given their reduced mobility (and now COVID-19) many elderly and those with differing abilities crave safe opportunities to get outdoors.

“Cycling Without Age allows older adults and those with differing abilities to spend more time outdoors engaging with their community while riding in the specially designed trishaws. Along with community engagement, CWA is a great way to bring many generations together in order to exchange life stories and make new friends. Older Adults and those with differing abilities have the opportunity to access the Fox Valley region’s fabulous trails and parks. Life does not end when you turn 75. Life unfolds at all ages, young and old, and can be thrilling, fun, sad, beautiful and meaningful. Cycling Without Age provides for new adventures, supports active aging and the ability to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors.” -Cheryl Zadrazil, President of the Fox Cities Cycling Without Age program 

This 3 year grant will help us create a sustainable program. Connecting certified nursing homes within the same geographic area with each other to share resources and creating trained “Train the Trainers” who can then teach Pilot Training 101. By expanding Bike Fed staff capacity across the state to serve nursing homes and other organizations seeking guidance on CWA, we will help communities, businesses and individuals realize the impact and joy of riding a bike.

For more information and to learn how your community can get involved in Cycling Without Age and the Bike Fed, contact Michelle at michelleb@wisconsinbikefed.org.