The two wheels of a bike can grant a sense of freedom to any cyclist explorer, but for certain people that opportunity is gone.
“For people of a certain age, biking around is no longer available,” said Scott Wise, owner of Edgeworth Park senior living facility. “As you get older something as seemingly simple as riding a bike becomes inaccessible. You don’t realize it’s a privilege until it’s gone.”
Edgeworth Park is just one of the sponsors for the new program Cycling Without Age, an initiative from Williamsburg Area Bicyclists that offers rides on trishaw bikes to people who no longer have the ability to ride a bike themselves.
A trishaw is a three-wheeled bike that has seating for two people in the front. It also has a motorized pedaling system to help the cyclist as they ride with the two guests.
“My dad was a cyclist, and this is something I know he would’ve liked in his last few years when he wasn’t able to ride anymore,” said Mark Holt, one of the volunteers and a member of the Williamsburg Area Bicyclists. “I’m 66, and I know eventually I’ll lose mobility. This is something I definitely would want even for myself.”
The idea for the program came in December 2017 when Rick Nevins, vice president and ride coordinator for Williamsburg Area Bicyclists, saw a TED talk about Cycling Without Age and how beneficial the program was.
“I think for me, it was the idea that I know how much enjoyment I get out of cycling, the freedom and being outdoors, and you figure for these older folks that no longer have the mobility or onset dementia, should also have the chance to experience that joy,” Nevins said.
Nevins began raising money to purchase a trishaw, which costs around $10,000. He surpassed his goal of $12,000 and was able to purchase the first trishaw for the program from Denmark.
The program has about 33 volunteers, or “pilots,” to ride the bikes from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays at Billsburg Brewery, 2054 Jamestown Road. Each 20- to 40-minute ride will follow the Colonial Parkway, the Virginia Capital Trail or around Jamestown Island, Holt said. Because the trishaw can only take two people at a time, Billsburg Brewery was picked as the starting location to give those waiting for a ride to have place to have a drink and enjoy the view of the river, Holt said.
Each pilot must complete a training session before taking riders onto the trails. The first training session explains the basics of bike management, such as how to change a tire, as well as emergency medical training. The second session teaches the cyclists how to ride the trishaw, which can be more difficult than a regular bike, Holt said.
The program is sponsored by Edgeworth Park, Williamsburg Landing and Eco Discovery Park which made a $4,000 matching contribution to the program. The two senior living facilities as well as Verena at the Reserve will transport residents to Billsburg during ride times.
The program hopes to one day offer multiple bikes in a number of locations.
Cycling Without Age will launch with a celebration featuring live music, a raffle and food trucks from 5 to 9 pm. Tuesday (June 12) at Billsburg Brewery. A portion of proceeds from the event will go to help the program purchase a second bike, which Nevins said will most likely be necessary because they’re expecting a large interest in the area.
“We live in such a beautiful area,” Holt said. “Everybody should have the opportunity to enjoy it.”