Joe Heimbach with two trishaw passengers, Sylvia Smith (left) and Peta Adams, in Lakeside Park. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Nelson’s trishaw: safe, fun, and not just for seniors

Free bike program is for anyone with mobility issues or is otherwise isolated

In a rickshaw, the driver is in front, and therefore can’t interact easily with the passengers.

In a trishaw, the passengers are in front and closer to the driver, so there are lots of conversations.

Joe Heimbach, one of the volunteer pilots of Nelson’s trishaw, is a very sociable man who enjoys the storytelling and camaraderie that happens on his trips.

“The most interesting people are the seniors,” he says. “They have all these experiences and opinions. I have had fantastic visits with them on the bike. I am never going to give this up.”

He says he’s given about two dozen rides since he started last June. The free trips are for anyone who has mobility challenges or is otherwise isolated.

Sylvia Smith is a senior who went on a ride with Heimbach around Lakeside Park.

“It’s really good for someone who has no other way to get around town, or get out of the facility you live in,” she said. “I think people should use it more, be more aware of it.”

Peta Adams agrees. She first went on a ride driven by a friend around the park and the mall, holding her walker in her lap.

“I kept telling her to slow down, and then I got the giggles. It was fun. I always wanted to do this. I love to see it. And it’s not just for seniors.”

Heimbach says many people are nervous at first.

“Will it be bumpy, will we go too fast?”

But once they are strapped in and moving, he says, they realize it’s safe and relaxing.

Even though Nelson’s steepness restricts travel somewhat, the trishaw trips are not limited to Lakeside Park. They’ve taken people in the Pride parade and on tours of the mural festival. They also have a trailer to transport the trishaw to the rail trail.

The trishaw program is part of Cycling Without Age, an organization active in 40 countries. Wendy Baker-Konkin is president of the Nelson chapter.

“When we got started,” she says, “we were the 13th chapter in Canada, and there are now close to 50, within less than two years.”

She relates a story about a client who is blind.

“He was resistant at first because he said, I can’t see, what is the point? But finally he did, and he was ecstatic. He realized it is not just about seeing. Your senses are activated by being out.”

For information about the Nelson trishaw or to book a trip, phone 250-352-1999.

From the international Cycling without Age website, the operating principles of the service are:

Generosity: Cycling Without Age is based on generosity and kindness. It starts with the obvious generous act of taking one or two elderly or less-abled people out on a bike ride. It’s a simple act that everyone can do.

Slowness: Slowness allows you to sense the environment, be present in the moment and it allows people you meet along the way to be curious and gain knowledge about Cycling Without Age because you make time to stop and talk.

Storytelling: Elderly people have so many stories that will be forgotten if we don’t reach out and listen to them. We tell stories, we listen to stories on the bike and we also document the stories when we share them via word of mouth or on social media.

Relationships: Cycling Without Age is about creating a multitude of new relationships: between generations, among the elderly, between pilots and passengers, nursing homes employees and family members. Relationships build trust, happiness and quality of life.

Without Age: Life unfolds at all ages, young and old, and can be thrilling, fun, sad, beautiful and meaningful. Cycling Without Age is about letting people age in a positive context – fully aware of the opportunities that lie ahead when interacting in their local community.

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