Cycling Without Age: The Trishaw is Here
The trishaw has arrived, and it’s electric.
It has taken a village and then some—Lebanon Rec, Friends of the Northern Rail Trail, Friends of Lebanon Rec and of the Mascoma River Greenway, Cycling Without Age, a grant from AARP, plus several dedicated individuals like Amy Chan and Sean Dittrich and more—to bring the trishaw to Lebanon, New Hampshire.
The trishaw is an electric-assisted bike pedaled by a volunteer pilot. A passenger (or two) sits on a small carriage-like seat in front of the bike. (You may have experienced something similar if you have ever taken a pedicab.) It is designed to allow persons with mobility problems to enjoy a bicycle ride even if they themselves are unable to pedal. While the majority of passengers will likely be elderly, others with mobility issues are welcome to join the program too. Mascoma River Greenway has been paved since its inception, and a small part of the Northern Rail Trail was recently paved as well, making access to both easier for trishaw pilots and passengers.
While fresh air is undoubtedly a benefit of a spin in the trishaw, there is also a social component. Some older people, especially those with physical limitations, are isolated. A trishaw ride gets them out into the community and gives them a congenial companion to talk with. The pilot’s manual states “. . . the essence of the bicycle ride is about creating intergenerational relationships and spending time together. Ask questions, listen, talk . . .”
Pilots are currently being sought, and training is already underway. Becoming a volunteer pilot is a process that involves background checks, fingerprinting, and assessment of skill in operating the vehicle. At one recent orientation, approximately a dozen potential volunteers showed up in Lebanon’s Eldridge Park to learn more and get a first look at the recently-arrived trishaw. Some were young, others were not so; most seemed to be experienced and enthusiastic cyclists. Brawn, however, is not required since the vehicle is battery-assisted. (I was fortunate to be among the first passengers to take an inaugural trip: sun, breeze, and companionship.)
Cycling Without Age was founded in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2012. It has spread throughout the world. Below is a video (gone viral for all the reasons) featuring a medical student pilot and the residents of a care home in Scotland. You don’t want to miss this, and you can sing along if you choose. (The link is embedded below. If it is fussy, go directly by clicking on this link.)
Plans are to get the Lebanon trishaw with pilots and passengers traveling on both rail trails this fall. For further information, click here.
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Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.