We are building a conversation around the ten principles of a caring place. In part one of our Cycling Without Age Scotland blogs, Executive Officer Christine Bell talks about the innovative transport project that is supporting communities. This relates to principle one: friendly and accessible transport.
Cycle of inclusion
I am the Executive Officer of Cycling Without Age Scotland and I am leading the rollout of this fabulous project Scotland wide. In my previous role as Project Officer for the community group Communities Along the Carron Association, we brought this initiative to the Falkirk area. It came from Denmark in 2016 with a small amount of funding from the Climate Challenge Fund.
We discovered Cycling Without Age when seeking a way to enable the elderly members of our communities to access the fabulous path networks in our area. The paths had been created by Falkirk Council Development and Environmental Services with the help of many stakeholder partners, including our community group.
Cycling Without Age was founded in Denmark in 2012 by Dorthe Pedersen and Ole Kassow. They shared a vision to take elderly people from care homes out on specially designed trishaws. This would enable them to experience the joy of cycling, which had been part of their daily lives prior to their advancing years.
The project was an immediate success. Volunteers from over 40 countries worldwide are now taking members of their local communities out on rides. They use accessible path networks in their towns, cities and urban developments. And this project does not only benefit the elderly. It has has now extended to include anyone with mobility restrictions no matter what age they are.
Communities Along the Carron Association was a group we formed consisting of community volunteers who loved where we lived but recognised the desperate need for improvements. Our 20-mile river had reached the end of its industrial use.
It had become a neglected eyesore used for fly-tipping. It was an area of seclusion which harboured anti-social behaviour. We consulted with members of the 16 communities along its length and listed their aspirations for the regeneration of the river.
The priority was a deep clean of the river followed by improved accessibility. This would be done through joining up path networks, connecting communities by building bridges, and making the paths attractive, inviting and, above all, accessible for all.
Over the last nine years, our group helped raise over £1.5 million for improvements and won many prestigious awards. These included:
- the RSPB Nature of Scotland Award for Conservation and Environment 2013 and 2014
- Rural Scotland Awards for Conservation and Environmental Improvements 2016 and 2017
Making a difference to the community
The project has enabled us to take elderly and less able people to the green spaces of Falkirk linked by the fabulous path networks made possible by funding from various agencies. These include Central Scotland Green Network Trust and Sustrans Community Link Partnership, Paths for All and Falkirk Council.
People who have never volunteered before have come forward to take part regularly. They are encouraged to do so by the exercise opportunity and the invaluable experience of creating such joy for those who have been socially isolated. They are now able to visit the green spaces and feel the huge benefits of the great outdoors and being part of their wider communities again.
Expanding across Scotland
Since March 2018, the Scottish Government has funded us to roll this project out Scotland-wide. This is in a manner that is insured, robust, safe and fit for purpose for care providers throughout the country. It is uniformly delivered while being led by groups in their own communities.
We are already active in Falkirk, Musselburgh, Inverness, Peebles, Perth, Prestwick, Fauldhouse, Bridge of Weir, Ullapool, Belmedie, Fairlie, Kinross, Fife, Edinburgh and Stirling.
We will continue to expand the project across the country. Many more communities are already awaiting delivery of their trishaw, planning their project, or fundraising to join Cycling Without Age Scotland.
Any group, community or individual who wishes to Cycling Without Age Scotland, please contact 01324 467272 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can volunteer to become a pilot (ride the electric trishaws), co-pilot (assist the rides), or co-passenger (sit with passengers). Or you can help to fundraise or start a group in your own area.