Jane Treleaven can’t remember the last time she was on a bicycle.
Fellow Orchard Valley Retirement Residence neighbour Pauline MacKay’s last jaunt on a two-wheel bike was “40, 50, maybe 60 years ago.”
Yet there were the two seniors Monday morning at Vernon’s Schubert Centre for the launch of the Cycling Without Age program, beaming after a five-minute spin around the centre in the front-seat of a three-wheel tri-shaw, piloted by program co-founder Ward Strong.
The object of the program is to give seniors and less able-bodied people free bike rides around the city and on the Okanagan Rail Trail.
“It was wonderful. I would love to go on a longer ride,” said MacKay.
“This is such a wonderful idea,” said Treleaven. “Our fellow residents will enjoy it.”
Enjoying their ride around the centre, courtesy of Strong, were Chartwell Carrington Place Retirement Residence dwellers Betty Howard and D. Gans, with enormous smiles and waving to the crowd as if they were the Queen addressing her loyal subjects.
Taking the first ride were Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming and Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster.
Without question, Cycling Without Age has been a hit and the program is just getting started.
Strong and his wife, Lauren Lypchuk, began their quest to bring the program to the North Okanagan in 2018 when they applied for, and received, a grant from the Community Foundation of North Okanagan to purchase the specially made tri-shaw, built exclusively in Denmark, founding country of the program.
Since then, Lypchuk and Strong have assembled not only the bike, but a group of around 50 volunteer ‘pilots’ who will take seniors and less able-bodied people for bike rides around Greater Vernon.
The motto of the program is ‘The Right To Wind In Your Hair.’
Lypchuk – who played the piano as guests assembled for Monday’s launch – isn’t surprised the program has drawn plenty of interest locally.
“The way it’s caught fire worldwide and across Canada (42 countries, including 20-to-25 cities in Canada),” I was expecting the same,” said Lypchuk. “A lot of footwork has been done, I’ve been working on this for the last year-and-a-half, and a lot of it is working with the community. Once things are organized, the program gets going.”
Lypchuk has presented the program to 10 local seniors’ residences and their respective activity directors are signing people up for rides. For people who don’t reside at the residences but want to be taken for a bike ride, they can sign up at the Schubert Centre or call the centre and asked to be put on a list. Program volunteer Bev Wagner will schedule people for rides.
The program, which is 100 per cent volunteer-driven, received a second CFNO grant for $15,000 last week. That grant, along with donations, will help Lypchuk and Strong buy a second bike.
Among the volunteer pilots is cycling instructor Bruce Mol, who thinks the program is a terrific fit for the North Okanagan.
“The program is so interesting that it identifies people throughout our city to get them outside, people who are isolated and want to be outside,” said Mol. “There are lots of seniors who don’t have enough family visiting them and they have to keep their mind engaged. To see those same seniors on the bikes with the big smiles, you just can’t go wrong with it.”