In its inaugural, full season in Penticton, the local chapter of Cycling Without Age literally topped the North American charts in rider popularity.
In a community of just 34,000, using only a fleet of two of the distinctive, electric trishaw cycles, volunteer pilots provided over 1,300 passenger rides since March. Worldwide, there are a total of 1,643 chapters in 42 countries.
Neil Pritchard was the man who brought the program, a global initiative launched in 2012 by Ole Kassow in Copenhagen Denmark, to the city in 2018.
“It’s an easy and simple solution to a big problem we have in our society today. There are so many people who are lonely, elderly people who are stuck indoors not able to go out and use their senses,” Kassow told the Western News when he was in Penticton last spring to promote the program. “It’s also about just connecting to the local community and just breaking free of that loneliness, so many people are socially isolated and this is just a great way of breaking that isolation.”
Ethel Dickerson, 96, was among the residents of local care homes who took part last year and in March following her ride she described the experience as “being like children again.”
The program is one designed to take out the elderly, often shut-in residents out for bike rides in the two-seat trishaws.
OneSky screened, and helped train the volunteers to provide a free, safe service to the seniors of Penticton.
“It exceeded our objectives which we thought were pretty ambitious, I’m really pleased with it,” said founder Pritchard. “Am I surprised? No.
“It was a real focus, a strong plan as to how we get there, it’s been a lot of fun but gratifying as well to see the numbers we projected that nobody believed then to hear that little Penticton is ahead of every other city in North America was astounding.”
During the first year he was able to recruit 41 volunteers from all walks of life who took the training regimen.
One of those people was Lynn Cook.
“It was one of the most gratifying things I’ve done in a very long time. The riders are so appreciative and their comments are just heart warming and see the big smile on their faces,” said Cook.
There are plans to add another two trishaws for next year’s program as well as more volunteers with the plan to expand the service to a dozen or more centres in Penticton.
For an in-depth look at at this year’s program see the Friday edition of the Penticton Western News.