JANESVILLE — Cycling Without Age helps people feel the wind in their hair and the peacefulness of bike riding without having to keep their balance or pedal.
The Cycling Without Age program of the Mobility Management Council on Aging, has partnered with the City of Janesville for “Cycling in The Park” on Fridays for people over age 50, 9-11 a.m. No appointment is necessary and it’s free to the public. Cycling Without Age will also provide rides for seniors and persons with disabilities, free to the public, by appointment. People can call 608-757-5408 for an appointment or more information.
As part of the experience, riders get to enjoy a scenic view as trained volunteer pilots pedal them through park areas.
“It’s fun, easy, free and you can do it outside,” said Jennifer McIlhone, Rock County Council on Aging and Mobility Manager.
Rock County received two trishaws in 2018 through a grant and hosted a couple events offering rides. Last summer McIlhone revived the program helping to get 15 volunteer pilots trained and offering events throughout the season. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rides were temporarily suspended but are up and running again with the help of three loyal volunteer pedalers.
On July 16, adults from Aptiv in Janesville were getting rides at a special event set up for the organization.
“It was fun and exciting, definitely a cool experience,” said Aptiv Day Services Provider April Wright after her ride.
Taylor Noss of Aptiv said she was waving at everyone she passed.
Volunteer pilot Angie Stone, who runs a business offering oral hygiene inside of care facilities, is sensitive to those who can’t ride bicycles anymore. She saw trishaw rides as an amazing opportunity to bring people a little taste of the freedom and the outdoors.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Stone has been working double duty as other more vulnerable volunteers have had to back away. Stone said it’s a strenuous workout, although the trishaws do have a backup battery to help.
“You can make it as much of a workout as you want,” she said. “It’s super fun. I get to visit with my passengers and the trail is gorgeous.”
Stone said she usually learns a lot about her passengers as they travel, although if they prefer silence she is fine with that too.
Since Cycling without Age began in Copenhagen in 2012, the program is in 50 countries with 33,000 trained pilots, according to its website https://cyclingwithoutage.org.
McIlhone said volunteers undergo a four-hour class where they learn biking safety tips, rules and information on trishaws. If participants are still interested after the initial training, they have an additional 2-hour practice session and undergo a background check.
Volunteers must be in moderately good shape. Although the bikes are power assisted with a batter and booster that help with takeoff, it still takes some balance and stamina to pedal.
The rides average 15-20 minutes. They can be longer or shorter depending on the person’s wishes or how many riders show up for the event.
The training also focuses on the idea behind the rides, freedom and presence amidst one’s surroundings in a safe environment.