A Dublin volunteer takes a few seniors for a trishaw bike ride through their local Cycling Without Age program. (cyclingwithoutage.org)

Chilliwack introduces pilot program to get seniors on bikes

The Cycling Without Age program uses volunteers to peddle trishaws and is already in 37 countries

Chilliwack is about to become the fifth city in the province to purchase a trishaw bicycle for its latest pilot program: Cycling Without Age (CWA).

Started in Denmark in 2012 in by Ole Kassow, Cycling Without Age gets a community’s senior citizens back out on bikes, regardless of their physical capabilities.

“Too many seniors no longer have the physical capability to get out on their own,” said Coun. Ken Popove. “(And) we need to get our seniors out in the fresh air (because) it helps fight against loneliness and social isolation.”

With that in mind, when the Yarrow Community School Society approached the City of Chilliwack for a one-time contribution of $9,925, about 80 per cent of the cost of one trishaw, Popove put forth a motion to instead pay just over half of the program’s $29,174 startup cost, $15,000.

The motion was passed unanimously. Said Coun. Chris Kloot commented: “I think we make a lot of investments for young people in our community. I support this interesting initiative for our senior population.”

“My first thought was this is great (and) we need to get behind this and move this along as quick as we can, (so) it was something I was happy to put forward,” Popove explained.

Manufactured by Copenhagen Cycles for Cycling Without Age, the trishaw bicycles cost more than $12,000 each, and come equipped with weather-proof hoods, electric-assist motors, and a personalized sticker package for the community hosting the program.

“Essentially, we bought them a bike and they’ll buy themselves a bike,” added Popove. “And I look forward to maybe being a peddler or peddle-ee.”

“It’s actually the cost of the bike, shipping the bike, and some safety equipment like helmets,” explained David Burge, one of the project’s co-founders.

It was only six months ago when Burge and the other local CWA co-founders were forwarded an internet link to Kassow’s TEDx video.

“We got excited about the idea of trying to do something locally,” said Burge, who’s a retired physician and long-time cyclist.

A volunteer shows off a new trishaw bike for Dublin’s Cycling Without Age program. (cyclingwithoutage.org)

“All four of the founding members of the local CWA chapter love to cycle, have elderly parents and see the immediate value of fostering social connection between generations through fresh air, wind in the hair, and exercise,” said Burge.

Even “(my) 91-year-old mother is fortunate enough to be mobile and out in the fresh air daily, and it is so apparent that the fresh air brings so much quality to her life,” Burge wrote in an email.

“What appeals to us (the most are) the relationship that are developed,” said Burge during a telephone interview.

“One of the things we plan on doing is encouraging the folks who are getting rides to tell their stories (because we) see it as a really neat opportunity for inter-generational community development. That’s been the outcome in other places that have started this program.”

“It’s a good idea for sure,” said Robert Saucier, who manages Chilliwack’s Senior Peer Counsellors group. “I would sit on it and go for a ride, it sounds like a fun thing to do, especially if the highways and roads we’re on are safe.”

“So we tried to come up with a model that may work locally, talked about various options, and decided to make the approach of trying to base it out of a community centre (like) Yarrow Community School.”

However, Burge adds the community’s first Cycling Without Age bike may not be ready to hit the trails until next spring.

In the meantime, says Burge, “we’ll be trying to recruit and train lots of volunteers and develop contacts within the community that will allow us to help lots of elderly folks access the bikes.”

“We’re very lucky with the growing abundance of wonderful—and flat—trails around Chilliwack,” said Burge. “It makes our community the perfect place for taking seniors out on tours in these deluxe trishaws.”


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