Everyone has the right to feel the wind in their hair. That’s the motto behind a new Davis Bike Campaign program that brings the joy of bicycling to seniors, people with mobility limitations and others who are unable to ride on their own. This program is part of a larger international effort, Cycling Without Age (cyclingwithoutage.org), which has about 2,500 chapters in 51 countries across the world. Last fall, the Bike Campaign unveiled the “Chat”, an electric assisted trishaw (think tricycle + rickshaw) that seats two people in front of a volunteer pilot who, with a spin of the pedals, engages the riders with the world around them. “You feel kind of free, like you’re flying,” said one rider.

We really think this is going to make a difference in our community, getting people who are isolated out and connected with others,” Maria Contreras Tebbutt, the Bike Campaign’s founder, said during a Chat demonstration at the Rancho Yolo senior community. The inspiration comes from The Netherlands, where “biking is part of the daily lifestyle,” Contreras Tebbutt said. Van Raam, a Dutch developer of special-needs bikes, created the trishaw. Contreras Tebbutt learned about Cycling Without Age after viewing a video talk by its founder, Ole Kassow, who wanted to reconnect elders with the freedom and mobility of riding. Around the same time, Bike Campaign volunteer Anthony Palmere, Unitrans’ retired general manager, heard of the program through a transportation webinar. Together, they realized they were onto something. “We thought, why don’t we have this in Davis?” They worked together to obtain grants to purchase a trishaw. Over the past several months, the Bike Campaign has introduced the Chat to various parts of the community. Contreras Tebbutt said the Bike Campaign’s goal is to offer Chat rides throughout the community, working with partner agencies such as senior residential facilities. You can learn more and register to ride at https://www.thebikecampaign.org/cycling-without-age. See more pictures of the trishaw rides at www.thebikecampaign.org/post/cycling-without-age-organization-celebrates-10-years.

The experience is meant to be equally meaningful for the pilots, who undergo about an hour and a half of training to prepare for the leisurely rides to parks, greenbelts and other pleasure-oriented destinations. “My first two trips were nothing but joyous,” said volunteer pilot Chris Pilon, a retired teacher. “You get a chance to listen to and know people you wouldn’t know ordinarily, and hear their stories,” Pilon added. The Bike Campaign is seeking volunteers ages 18 and older to serve as pilots, who are asked to offer rides in one- to two-hour shifts. For more information about pilot training, fill out the interest form on the Bike Campaign website or email Anthony Palmere at ajpalmere@gmail.com.

(adapted from Davis Enterprise, 10/15/21)

Article provided to the Be Resilient Project by: Poppy Strode.