Jennifer McLaughlin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Cycling Without Age is a global initiative that gives seniors and others who cannot cycle the opportunity to enjoy the wind in their hair.
In 2018, Ontario-based brokerage BrokerTeam Insurance created Project SPOTLIGHT. The project’s goal is to “shine a light on the community’s hidden needs” through the support of small, local community organizations to achieve an inclusive and accessible society.
The Hamilton and Burlington chapter of Cycling Without Age (CWA) is one of the organizations selected for funding support in 2022 by Project SPOTLIGHT.
CWA started in Denmark in 2012 and has since expanded into more than 50 countries, with almost 40 chapters throughout Canada. The initiative uses custom-made, three-wheeled, electric-assist tricycles called trishaws.
While safely seated on a trishaw, seniors and others facing barriers to movement can experience the thrill of cycling without the need to pedal or steer. A volunteer driver pilots the trishaw and can use electric backup as needed.
“The past couple of years have brought society’s most vulnerable populations and their mental wellness to the forefront,” said Willam Chan, president of BrokerTeam Insurance.
“Cycling Without Age helps seniors connect with nature and also offers a great opportunity to socialize,” he added.
The activity, coupled with the company of the volunteer pilot, supports memory stimulation, relationship building, and connection to the community and nature.
BrokerTeam Insurance invited CWA of Hamilton and Burlington to Unionville Main Street and its nearby trails Sept.7 to train volunteers on the trishaws and offer free rides for local seniors.
One of the mandates of a local CWA chapter is to inspire other communities to explore the possibility of creating their own chapters. York Region’s efforts towards inclusion, accessibility, and active living, along with a growing trail system, make the program a great fit.
Nancy Gray, coordinator and co-founder of CWA of Hamilton and Burlington, Tammy Heidbuurt of New Hope Community Bikes, and several of the chapter’s volunteers made the trek to Markham with two trishaws in tow to share their knowledge and expertise.
Project SPOTLIGHT’s corporate partners and sponsors, plus several community leaders, including Markham-Unionville MP Paul Chiang, Deputy Mayor Don Hamilton, Ward 3 Councillor Reid McAlpine, and Allan Bell, vice president of community relations and corporate partnerships for the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation were in attendance at the event.
“We know that people want to get out, enjoy exercise, they want fresh air, they want to stay healthy,” Hamilton said.
“There’s no group that is more important to us than the seniors in this community,” he said, adding that keeping seniors active, healthy, and stimulated is essential.
McAlpine also acknowledged members of the Markham Cycling and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and the Markham Cycles Community Bike Hub, along with potential sponsors in attendance.
“I really look forward to all of us coming together and taking this project on for the benefit of everybody here in Markham,” McAlpine said.
Trishaw pilot volunteers, funding through sponsorship and donations, and trishaw storage and transportation are among the resources needed by a CWA chapter.
The approximate cost of a trishaw is $15,000.
Visit cyclingwithoutage.ca and theprojectspotlight.ca for information.
Main photo: Local residents enjoy a ride on a trishaw. Cycling Without Age (CWA) of Hamilton and Burlington brought two trishaws to Unionville Main Street to share their expertise about the program and to encourage Markham to consider starting a CWA chapter.