Everyone deserves to feel the wind in their hair - this statement is the ethos behind Cycling Without Age (CWA). The concept involves taking elderly people, or those with limited mobility, out for bike rides in specially built trishaw bikes, piloted by volunteers.
A recent recipient of the Brisbane Airport Corporation’s (BAC) Community Giving Fund, CWA was originally founded in Copenhagen, Denmark, by Ole Kassow. It is now represented in 42 countries all over the world and is helping bridge the gap between generations and prevent loneliness.
In Australia, CWA operates in 35 chapters across Australia. Ryan Foster, Community Captain of the Brisbane Chapter describes the program and what it’s all about.
“Social isolation is a common problem for the elderly and people with disabilities. Our program supports people experiencing limited mobility to enjoy one of the simple pleasures in life – a bike ride along the Brisbane River,” says Ryan.
The initiative caters to various groups, including grandparents and grandkids, couples, support workers, aged care services, and people with disabilities.
CWA was prompted to apply for BAC’s Community Giving Fund when they identified the need to purchase a wheelchair-accessible trishaw.
"We work with many aged care services to help reduce social isolation for elderly people and we noticed that a number of people reliant on wheelchairs were missing out because you need to be mobile to climb into the standard trishaws,” said Ryan.
“The Brisbane Airport grant proved instrumental in expanding opportunities for more diverse abilities. The grant allowed us to invest in a wheelchair-accessible trishaw helping us overcome the barrier of people missing out, especially those with specific needs.”
Approximately 90 people have used the new wheelchair-accessible service with the new trishaw growing the Brisbane fleet to three x two seater trishaws and one wheelchair-accessible trishaw allowing the volunteers to facilitate a ride for a group of seven people.
Ryan explains the benefits of being active in the community and how this reduces social isolation.
"Being seen is just as important as being active. Riding along the river allows guests to be part of the community. People wave to them, and they feel welcomed, building a sense of community. Interactions with volunteers build relationships, leaving them with a smile on their face."
Operating nearly 24/7, CWA serves aged care services on weekdays and the public on weekends. The ride often includes an activity or lunch, and CWA is hoping to include more experiences in the ride.
“Participants appreciate places like Newstead House and South Bank for nostalgic memories, reminiscing about events like Expo 88. We’d like to start incorporating visits to the Maritime Museum or other Brisbane attractions to extend the experience and offer diverse and enriching activities for everyone involved,” said Ryan.
Regarding future plans, CWA aims to expand the program to meet demand in other areas of Brisbane and grow the fleet to accommodate various group sizes and mobilities.
“In the future, we’d like to be able to purchase a side-by-side trishaw, which would offer people who are physically quite mobile but cognitively not able to steer a bike to contribute to the ride by pedalling along with a volunteer without having to worry about steering,” said Ryan.
“We’d love to invest in more trishaws to accommodate different size groups and mobilities. Often we have participants' loved ones join in on the ride and share the experience with them. By investing in more trishaws we can facilitate more types of groups and cater to specific needs.”
While the monetary contribution was beneficial, Ryan highlights other ways the BAC grant program has benefited their organisation.
“Brisbane Airport Corporation fosters an opportunity to connect with other recipient organisations who share values and goals,” said Ryan.
"At an event hosted by Brisbane Airport, I got to meet with other grant recipients, and this sparked ideas about collaboration and working together. It's about leveraging the collective impact of different initiatives."
How can you help?
- Whether you wish to donate, volunteer, ride with CWA, or simply say hello, there are numerous ways to get involved.
- If you’d like to support the CWA program, you can make a tax-deductible donation.
- Volunteering is not just about riding bikes, volunteers can contribute, and simply be friendly to guests and help out with morning teas or other activities.
- If you know someone who would benefit from a bike ride, contact CWA via email.