Christine Bell gave us a very informative, emotive and uplifting talk about the charitable project Cycling Without Age.
Cycling Without Age, Falkirk, grew out of another organisation, Communities Along the Carron, which was set up originally to clear a short stretch of the River Carron of litter in 2008. With encouragement from Falkirk Council, the group began to tidy up along the whole river, and now works to educate the local community, especially schoolchildren, about the dangerous effects of litter on wildlife, and by involving them in projects like bridge improvements and re-stocking the river with fish, teaches them to respect their environment.
After receiving funding for a special project, and wishing to include older residents in the river improvements, the group heard about Cycling Without Age which had been set up in Copenhagen in 2012 by Ole Kassow to take elderly care home residents out and about on a trishaw. From this small beginning has blossomed a movement which now operates in 37 countries. Christine and her team liked what they found out about it and decided to set up a similar project in Falkirk.
Residents at Carrondale Care Home agreed to act as ‘guinea pigs’ for an initial trial which proved to be a great success. One young volunteer in particular , Fraser, was instrumental in setting up the scheme and received a lot of valuable media attention as well as a Pride of Britain Award.
With involvement from the Scottish Government, the Falkirk team are now helping other towns in Scotland to set up their own programmes, some of which should be up and running by April 2018. They can help with insurance, risk assessments, buying and maintaining the bikes which come from Copenhagen and cost about £7,000.
The Falkirk branch now has about 40 volunteers, some of whom have never volunteered before. Christine’s talk, which she illustrated with slides and videos, emphasised the benefits for passengers and volunteers alike, the opportunity to get out into the fresh air and feel the “wind in your hair”, stimulating company, sharing stories and songs, and feeling part of the community once more.