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“Everyone benefits from a ride”: Six years in, Cycling Without Age is increasing its impact throughout Greater Victoria

The group of volunteers give seniors and less-abled people the simple experience of a bicycle ride

Eva Rasciauskas
December 11, 2023
Sponsored
Created For
Produced for an organization or individual that has paid for and approved the content for publication.

“Everyone benefits from a ride”: Six years in, Cycling Without Age is increasing its impact throughout Greater Victoria

The group of volunteers give seniors and less-abled people the simple experience of a bicycle ride

Eva Rasciauskas
Dec 11, 2023
Sponsored
Created For
Produced for an organization or individual that has paid for and approved the content for publication.

“Everyone benefits from a ride”: Six years in, Cycling Without Age is increasing its impact throughout Greater Victoria

The group of volunteers give seniors and less-abled people the simple experience of a bicycle ride

Eva Rasciauskas
December 11, 2023
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“Everyone benefits from a ride”: Six years in, Cycling Without Age is increasing its impact throughout Greater Victoria

This article was created for Victoria Foundation, and produced independently by Capital Daily. It was approved by Victoria Foundation before it was published.

Operating in over 50 locations across the globe, Cycling Without Age is making major headways in the Greater Victoria region and doesn’t plan to put on the brakes any time soon. 

The Cycling Without Age Society (CWAS) is a non-profit organization and registered charity that provides free bicycle rides to seniors and less-abled people living in Sidney and North Saanich, providing care and attention to community members who need it. Using trishaws—a three-wheeled bike with bucket-like seating in the front—the group is led by volunteers who want to share the experience of cycling with those who are no longer able to cycle on their own.

Cycling together has shown benefits, from fostering meaningful relationships through conversations to basking in the simple joy of being outside on a bike.

Bill Brooks, the president of CWAS in Victoria and an active cyclist himself, highlights the positive effects of the program. Having participated and led countless rides, he shared with Capital Daily some of his fondest experiences on the job. 

“It really doesn't matter the level of handicap or disability that a person has—I find that everyone benefits from being able to go for a ride,” said Brooks. 

Brooks recalled a 96-year-old man named Michael who he would take out for a ride every week. At first, Michael wouldn’t say much; he’d simply enjoy the ride. But, like so many participants, when Brooks finally got Michael talking, he had a lot of very interesting things to say. 

“It turns out he was in the Yugoslavian underground during the Second World War and had spent 10 years in Siberia before coming over here. That’s the nice thing about these rides. People like Michael get to talk once they’re encouraged to,” said Brooks.

Brooks also noted the positive effects of cycling on the volunteers, who, like him, often get to engage in deep conversations and in turn witness powerful transformations in participants. 

“As pilots, we get as much—often more—out of a ride as our passengers,” said Brooks. 

He added that the rides are truly designed to let participants interact with the greater community.

“We intentionally ride at eight to nine kilometres per hour, stopping often, so that passengers have a chance to see, hear, smell, and interact with the people and surroundings.”

Since the group’s debut in 2018, CWAS Victoria has nearly doubled the number of scheduled rides and volunteer hours each year. As of 2023, there are 24 trained pilots (with 11 more in training) who have completed nearly 500 rides with almost 1,000 passengers on board. 

The organization is also collecting funds for a fourth trishaw bike for the 2024 season. With that, the group anticipates giving approximately 800 rides with 30 trained pilots and expanding even further into the peninsula. 

CWAS Victoria is the first of the global groups to become an independent organization. The group offers its services to multiple care homes, most notably Sidney All Care, Sidney Care, Shoal Centre, Norgarden, and the White Cane Society, and in 2023, a school program was added that gives rides to less-abled children. The school program, Brooks notes, has been an “absolutely resounding success” since its launch, thanks to dedicated volunteers.

“Our organization has been successful only because it is driven from the bottom up. Virtually all of the changes and improvements in our group are because of the dedication of many anonymous pilots and helpers who just want to see smiles on the faces of our passengers who otherwise would be stuck in their rooms or classrooms,” he said. 

Cycling Without Age is currently building a Tri Municipality Project fund, which would allow the organization to expand its services into Saanichton and Brentwood Bay, as well as continue to invest money in a fourth trishaw for the school program’s exclusive use. The group still needs nearly $16,000 to purchase a new bike and repay the project fund.

Anyone interested in donating and/or becoming a pilot for Cycling Without Age is encouraged to visit the contact page on the organization’s website.

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