Cycling Without Age – in Southwark
20 years ago, when living in Cambridge, one of my dear friends was the wonderful Phyllis, in her late 80s when we met. She was an avid cyclist in a town in which everyone cycles, and it clearly gave her such independence, fitness and enjoyment of life – she thoroughly relished the look on my face when gleefully recounting how she had recently fallen off (“But it was fine! – I feel straight into a bush!”).
I was reminded of her enthusiasm a few weeks ago, when a chance retweet alerted me to a programme set up in 2012 in (inevitably) Denmark – Cycling Without Age: getting older people with mobility issues out and about in the fresh air and green space, rekindling that love of cycling, and breaking down social isolation. Using specially designed tricycles, volunteers (“pilots”) cycle around local parks, with two older people sitting together on a comfy seat at the front. The effect it has on the passengers is so evident and so striking – and Phyllis would have loved it – so how could I not give it a go?
It turns out that there is a south-east London chapter of Cycling Without Age based at the Time & Talents community centre in Rotherhithe, all of 18 minutes from my house by bike – so on Friday I trained to be a pilot! The rickshaws are electric assisted – assistance that I’d naively/arrogantly thought I wouldn’t need to use. In fact, of course, they are heavy and quite unwieldy, albeit strikingly more stable once there is a passenger up front – and I’m more than happy to use the turbo boost because it is enormous fun! We learnt how to attach the battery pack, how to help passengers get in and out safely and how to take a sharp corner (gingerly – the handlebars have a tendency to zoom out of reach), and then we all went for a spin around Southwark Park (known to me from its gratifyingly un-hilly parkrun route).
So now all that’s left to do is my DBS check, and I will be good to go. I will keep you posted - and in the meantime you might like this TED talk by the founder, Ole Kassow. If it doesn't enthuse you about Cycling Without Age, I suggest you take a long, hard look at yourself...