I SPEAK with the organisers of Cycling Without Age in Newcastle, a project which aims to get those who can no longer cycle out and about

The Northern Echo:

CYCLING Without Age began in Copenhagen in 2012 offering rides to elderly people and people with limited mobility.

It now has 1,100 chapters in 40 countries and an estimated 50,000 people have been on rides, reducing loneliness, social isolation and improving well-being.

With an ageing population, and more than two million over 75s living alone or isolated, evidence suggests that a project of this time can help to ameliorate loneliness and associated health issues.

We are the Newcastle branch of the global initiative ‘Cycling Without Age’ (CWA). We are non-profitable and volunteer run.

We help to reduce social isolation and loneliness in the elderly and less mobile by taking them out on specialised ‘trishaw’ rides pedalled by volunteers to enjoy conversations and feel the wind in their hair!

We use special trishaws – three-wheel cycles with a passenger cab for two out front – which have electrical power assist. Our rides are comfortable, fun, fully insured and free and our guiding principles are generosity, slowness, storytelling, relationships and without age.

Passengers experience the city and nature closeup from the trishaw and they are plunged right back into the heart of their community where suddenly they are visible again, as evidenced by the enthusiastic waves and conversations with passers-by!

Our work builds bridges between generations and reinforces trust, respect and the social glue of our society. Our cycle pilots and passengers alike enjoy the physical and emotional well-being benefits. The joy of riding in the trishaw cab stimulates spirits to fly and stories to flow.

Back in 2017, our Katie Wilkinson saw a BBC Amazing Humans video which told the story of Fraser, a medical student who had become involved in Cycling Without Age Falkirk. The tale of care home resident Mary as she enjoyed trishaw rides out in the fresh air, really struck a chord with Katie and she decided it was something she would love to see in Newcastle.

After enlisting the help of some wonderful helpers, the team started growing with the arrival of Lesley Heseltine and Tim Parsons. Fast forward almost two years we are now a team of six, welcoming onboard Helen Angel, Terry Coaker and Joanne Grant.

Being active outdoors in the company of others on a bike ride promotes the sharing of stories cross-generationally between the rider and passenger and can evoke memories when visiting local areas. The service allows those who are no longer able to ride a bike the feeling of being visible again. We hope to raise more funds to be able to purchase more trishaws and spread the Cycling Without Age project across the NorthEast.

So far, we have had a very positive reaction. Last year we made a radio and TV appearance on the BBC which was a great success. With the help of some generous donors we managed to purchase our first trishaw following a Crowdfunding campaign. When we are out and about with our trishaw Annie, people always stop and stare and when you see the smiles on their faces you realise what a great thing it is that we are doing.

Passengers’ feedback has included comments such as: “I feel as a free as a bird, it’s like living again” and “the ride was so enjoyable, something like this has been a long time coming”.

Currently we operate from a local residential care home in Gosforth, Newcastle. But there is no limit on age or disability, we want to offer this service to people of all ages with limited mobility who might be suffering from social isolation as a result.

The most rewarding aspect is seeing the smiles as people’s faces light up with recollections during rides. It is certainly a feel-good project and a great way to create new friendships.

  • Get in touch by following the group at @cwa_ newcastle on Twitter and cyclingwithoutagenewcastleupontyne on Facebook.