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Cycling Without Age pedals into Canmore

You’re never too old to enjoy having the wind in your hair or going on a bike ride.
Ole Kassow, founder of Cycling Without Age, introduces the program at the Canmore Civic Centre Friday (March 18).
Ole Kassow, founder of Cycling Without Age, introduces the program at the Canmore Civic Centre Friday (March 18).

You’re never too old to enjoy having the wind in your hair or going on a bike ride.

That’s the philosophy behind Cycling Without Age – a program originating in Denmark that gets seniors who are less mobile than they used to be out in the sunshine for a bike ride.

Thanks to council approval in December, Canmore is one step closer to offering Cycling Without Age here in the community.

Family and Community Support Services coordinator Lu Douce discovered the program a year ago and immediately recognized that it would work well in this community.

Douce has for some time been inspired by the dedication of Canmore resident Lloyd Church, who modified his own bike with a seat to take his wife Ellie, who is in Eagle View long term care at the hospital, on bike rides.

Cycling Without Age uses tri-shaws – specially designed electric assist bicycles that like a rickshaw have a two-person seat in front and are pedalled from the back by a pilot.

“A year ago I saw a link on Facebook called Cycling Without Age and I thought ‘this is it,’ ” said Douce about finding a program that offered the broader community what Church was doing for his wife. “I told my coworkers about it and I said ‘I want to make this happen in Canmore,’ and that was March 18, 2015 exactly one year from today. And here we are a year later and the ball is rolling.”

The quick turnaround to get the program to Canmore was noted by deputy mayor Vi Sandford as well, who said council was pleased to see Cycling Without Age come to fruition locally with such enthusiastic support.

“One of the features about this program that feels very appropriate for our community is how this program will connect all elements of our community,” Sandford said. “We will be able to bring some of our seniors out into the active lifestyle we are all so familiar with and we ourselves will be able to enjoy this program in the future.”

Ole Kassow, founder of Cycling Without Age was in Canmore last Friday (March 18) to help launch the new FCSS program – although the three tri-shaws had a longer stop at customs than originally anticipated and were not yet in Canmore.

Kassow made a stop in Canmore as part of a tour he was on to visit the launch of Cycling Without Age in a number of communities in North America.

“I am blown away by this place and I have only been here for a few hours,” Kassow said. “The blue sky, the mountains and friendly faces – you have something fantastic going.”

Kassow told the gathered crowd for the launch about how Cycling Without Age came to be – it was a day like any other in Copenhagen, which is known as the city of bikes.

“We seriously have lots of bike riders,” he said. “Forty-five per cent of all commutes in Copenhagen are done by bike and less than 20 per cent by car. The rest are public transportation or on foot – so it is a very walkable city.

“One particular morning I cycled past this gentleman who was sitting on a bench in front of a local church in my neighbourhood just around the corner from the nursing home. He looked like a friendly older gentleman and he gave me a friendly wave as I cycled past him and I didn’t react.

“It got me thinking, he is sitting there having a good time, but it is clear to me he isn’t able to go any further than around the corner.”

His love for cycling and wanting to share that with seniors in his neighbourhood saw Kassow rent a rickshaw, or pedi-cab, and he showed up at the nursing home unannounced offering a ride to anyone who wanted one.

“It was a crazy idea inspired by a desire to see if there was any way I could bring mobility and bring community back to a generation that wasn’t mobile and that could have been the end of the story,” he said.

The very first person to take him up on the offer was Gertrude and he said she steered him the entire time and was particular about where she wanted to go.

“There were so many place she had not been in ages and wanted to see,” Kassow said.

What really stood out about the experience, he said, was that by sharing a bike ride there was an incredible connection with Gertrude and she was able to experience the joy of going for a bike ride.

Kassow said eventually he was able to convince the municipality to buy five tri-shaw bikes in 2013 and the program took off from there.

“Over the course of the first 10 to 12 months, we found out that what really is a strong driver of Cycling Without Age is first and foremost generosity,” he said. “It permeates every single thing we do, from someone offering their spare time to go out and give a bike ride to an elderly person, but it is also how we help each other with volunteers training volunteers and cities help cities.

“To be able to build relationships between generations is wonderful and these are little moments that keep happening all the time and bring people together. It seems like there is some magic dust on these bikes that gets people to chat and bond instantly.”

Kassow said cycling without age is a mindset and builds relationships and community, and he is excited to see it take off in Canmore.

The program for Canmore is gearing up for launch in spring. Already Douce said Communitea Café and the Old Ice Cream Bus have offered gift cards so those going for a ride can enjoy a treat. The engineering department helped by purchasing one of the bikes out of its budget and the Bow River Seniors Lodge, Origins in Spring Creek and the Golden Eagle long term care unit at the hospital are all on board.

Canmore Community Cruisers have also supported Cycling Without Age coming to the community and Outside Bike and Ski, as well as the Bicycle Café, have offered their services to maintain the bikes.

Those interested in being a part of the Cycling Without Age program can contact Douce at fcssresourcecentre@canmore.ca for more information.


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