Jane Admore, our membership secretary, recently discovered a wonderful new volunteer initiative that welcomes older people back to the joy of bikes. She shares the story, below.
Recently, I met Zac and Jackie from Wisconsin via Warm Showers (the worldwide network of cycle tourists hosting cycle tourists). They were biking and tramping their way around various great places in New Zealand, following Jackie’s happy experiences as an exchange student in Dunedin years ago.
A mutual bike-mad mentioned that Zac was involved in Cycling Without Age, an initiative founded in Denmark in 2012 which uses Christiana bikes or tri-shaws to give older people a chance to re-experience the joy of riding. As the motto goes, everyone deserves ‘the right to wind in your hair.’
I thought it sounded a brilliant idea for people who have always been cyclists, with its fundamental principles of generosity, slow cycling, storytelling, and friendships between people of all ages. But I assumed it hadn’t arrived in New Zealand yet.
The Arvida group of retirement villages is up with the game, with dedicated trishaws at several of their homes. Zac persuaded me, a reluctant ‘mainlander’, to venture up the North Shore from Devonport (via the killer Milford hill!) to the Aria Bay village in Browns Bay.
The gorgeous red livery of the trishaw was waiting at the door. The friendly staff were ecstatic that Zac, an experienced ‘pilot’ from Wisconsin, had turned up to take residents for a spin. Being a local, I was less of a novelty but no less welcome; up till now,it was mainly family visitors who’d taken residents out for a ride, one by one.
I thought I’d get a chance to be a passenger, but Maisie was quickly followed out by an enthusiastic Betty – so off they went, piloted by Zac… on a bicycle built for three, and I biked alongside.
The trip took us via the waterfront and through the shops. It’s a great flat ride, and the trishaw is electric-assist so could certainly manage a more demanding route.
They came back bubbling, and Maisie wanted more – so I sat beside Maisie for the next trip. She spoke non-stop about cycling in Harrow to work in her younger days – a vivid recapturing of memories that made total sense when I later watched Cycling Without Age co-founder Ole Kassow’s TED talk. (See link below)
After our second run, I had a go at piloting Zac around an adjacent park. Once I got the hang of the wide steering required with a load up front, I thought, ‘Wow, I can do this!”
I’m now eager to get back to Aria Bay and volunteer as a bike-chauffeur. I also plan to contact some elder care facilities closer to where I live to see if this great initiative is on their radar.
It’s really a lovely way to get involved with the community. If you think you might be a potential local pedaler in this rewarding context, consider contacting Aria Bay.They are so enthusiastic about the initiative, and share stories of even quite impaired people just blossoming or even weeping with joy after a spin. We know the feeling!
One comment from Betty was that she didn’t so much like the title having ‘age’ it. Perhaps in New Zealand, we could call it ‘Cycling Forever’? Whether in the pedals, or up front – we can all be part of it.