A Caring Place Blog: Christine Bell, Cycling Without Age Scotland

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Creating a Caring Place: A&DS has published a report which sets out the work that we have been coordinating, together with Scotland’s Towns Partnership, to respond and support the Scottish Government’s work around Town Centre Living.

We have identified 10 Principles of a Caring Place which places user needs at the heart of decision-making, service provision and investment in our places.

Principle 1 looks at Friendly and Accessible Transport. This means that people have options that are efficient, cost-effective and which encourage social interaction; that there are connections between other towns and centres as not every town can offer everything people need and inadequate transport between places can be an isolating factor.

In this blog Christine Bell, Executive Officer of Cycling Without Age Scotland talks about their innovative transport project to support communities.

Cycle of Inclusion

Christine Bell: I’m the Executive Officer of Cycling Without Age Scotland SCIO 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 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 & Environmental Services with the help of many stakeholding partners including our community group.

What is Cycling Without Age Scotland?

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 to 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 and volunteers from over 40 countries worldwide are now taking members of their local communities out on rides using accessible path networks in their towns, cities and urban developments. Not only does this project benefit the elderly but has now extended to include anyone with mobility restrictions no matter what age they are.

Regeneration Benefits

Cycling Without Age Scotland started in Falkirk through the regeneration of the river. Can you tell us about this regeneration and how the paths network has improved accessibility for everyone including cyclist?

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 which had reached the end of its industrial use had become a neglected eyesore used for fly-tipping and 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 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 including RSPB Nature of Scotland Award for Conservation and Environment 2013 and 2014 and Rural Scotland Awards for Conservation & Environmental Improvements 2016 and 2017.

How has Cycling Without Age Scotland made a difference to the people who use it, the individuals (both volunteers and users), the community and the area?

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 agencies such as Central Scotland Green Network Trust and Sustrans Community Link Partnership, Paths for All and Falkirk Council. Volunteers who have never volunteered previously have come forward to take part regularly encouraged by the exercise opportunity and the invaluable experience of creating such joy for those who have been socially isolated and are now able to visit the green spaces and feel the huge benefits of the great outdoors and feeling part of their wider communities again.

Expanding Across Scotland

Where does Cycling Without Age Scotland operate?

Since March 2018, the Scottish Government has funded us to roll this project out Scotland wide in a manner that is insured, robust, safe and fit for purpose for care providers throughout the country and uniformly delivered whilst being able to be 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.

What are your plans for the future?

We will continue to expand the project across the country with many more communities already awaiting delivery of their trishaw or planning their project and fundraising to join Cycling Without Age Scotland.

Any group, community or individual who wishes to be part of Cycling Without Age Scotland whether it be to simply volunteer to become a pilot (train to ride these electric trishaws), a co-pilot (assist the rides), a co-passenger (befriender on the rides who will sit with passengers) help to fundraise or want to start a group in your own area, please contact us on 01324 467272 or email   info@cylingwithoutage.scot. We would love to hear from you!

(Updated April 2019)

SERVICE: Town Centre Living Advice

A&DS is developing a design advice service on town centre living, initially looking at town centres as Caring Places for older people.

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