Following successful meetings in Tarbert and in Stornoway this week, a new chapter or branch of Cycling Without Age Scotland will soon be set up to introduce trishaws to the islands for the benefit of the elderly or disabled who are no longer able to get out and about.
CWAS, a charity which is also supported by the Scottish Government, has blossomed over the last few years and there are now 60 Trishaws across Scotland and over 30 active chapters with the nearest to Lewis being the one in Ullapool.
A total of 35 people attended the information event in Sandwick Hall on Wednesday night where they were given background information by Angus Macdonald, the former Falkirk MP, a staunch supporter of the organisation. There was also a meeting at Sir E Scott School in Tarbert on Tuesday evening.
Christine Bell, the Chief Executive Officer of CWAS, also gave detailed information of their work. All the trishaws are hand-made in Denmark. In Scotland 30,000 passengers have now been carried. The project was changing lives up and down the country. A Research and Evaluation Report by Heriot Watt University stated that their findings provided evidence for the generally positive benefits for participation in CWAS.
It added: "Short-term improvements in mood and well-being were observed as a result of taking a ride, and during those rides, the emotions experienced were predominately positive ones of happiness and interest. Participants appear to benefit from the opportunity for shared experiences with others while engaging with the local community, aspects that are core to the CWAS ethos."
There were 11 volunteer pilots at the information event in Sandwick Hall where they were given instruction by Christine not only on on how to use the trishaws but also how to assist the elderly passengers in and out of the trishaws.
The Lewis and Harris group has a Facebook Page. They said afterwards: "What a fantastic evening was had by all who attended the CWAS event tonight. Thank you to each and every person who came along to support it. Christine and Angus encouraged us all to get involved by telling us inspiration stories from the project and everyone who attended left so enthused and excited by this new community initiative. If you couldn’t make it along, please keep an eye out for future events or get in touch to be added to the mailing list. Lots of planning and fundraising to be done now to get Cycling Without Age Scotland set up locally in order to build community spirit, create intergenerational relationships and create our own inspiring stories."
This all arises from Cycling Without Age which is a global movement that started in Denmark, engaging older adults in trishaw rides to improve the health and emotional well-being of volunteer cycle pilots and passengers.
Internationally, the organisation sells its message that older people have ‘the right to feel the wind in their hair’. That may not be too much of a problem in the islands, but the opportunity to remain an active part of society and the local community is still just as valuable.
Using trishaws, Cycling Without Age volunteer pilots bring older people outdoors, giving a chance for them to tell their stories of the environment as they knew it back in the day.
It helps build relationships between generations, reinforcing the value of older people in the community. The longer-term aim is to have multiple clusters in different places around the islands, to help combat loneliness and build intergenerational relationships.
Photos: Christine Bell piloting a Trishaw at Stornoway Harbour with Angus Macdonald.
Gallery pictures show Cycling without Age trishaws in action in Canada, Copenhagen, in Australia and in Musselburgh.