Cranbrook is now one of about 47 communities in Canada that is home to a Cycling Without Age program, thanks to the dedication of Jackie Kimmel, Cranbrook Society for Community Living and many other volunteers, supporters and sponsors. A celebration was held on Thursday, Aug. 15 to kick off the program.
Kimmel applied to become a member of the CWA movement based out of Copenhagen, Den., in 2017 and since then has been studying and working towards actually getting a program to Cranbrook.
A CWA program utilizes specialized bikes called trishaws, that use an electric-assisted motor which allows the operator or pilot to transport passengers around town, giving people in the community with limited mobility, such as elderly individuals or people with disabilities, the chance to go for a bike ride.
Kimmel said that when she first was accepted as a CWA affiliate, nobody had heard of the program. She said she spent a great deal of time attending meetings at places like the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) and the Cranbrook Seniors’ Centre to spread the word and seek volunteers.
She said that as an individual, she was not able to apply for many of the grants she was hoping for, including from Columbia Basin Trust, so she was looking for an agency to partner with. That’s when the Cranbrook Society for Community Living (CSCL) approached her in January of this year and they became partners. They were then able to successfully apply for a grant from CBT and the project got off the ground.
“I’m grateful for CFCL and certainly to the Columbia Basin Trust,” Kimmel said. “I also have a lovely group of volunteers, I do not stand alone on this at all, people who have been wonderful as a fundraiser and just support.”
For example — some of the volunteers drove to Calgary to pick up the first two bikes to save the organization the shipping costs.
The program relies on these volunteers to pilot the bikes. Kimmel said it helps if the volunteers have some prior experience riding electric bikes.
“It involves just getting to know the bike and being able to travel with the extra weight, how the bike works, it doesn’t turn like other bikes turn you’ve got a lot of weight,” Kimmel explained. “It’s just a matter of making sure that a person is really confident in what they’re doing, never fast, never fast.”
Steven Parker, the manager of community inclusion and employment support with CSCL is one such volunteer and was present on Thursday to give people some demo rides on the trishaws.
“It really is cool,” Parker said. “You get out there and when you’re pedalling the bike it feels like you’re moving quite slow, but when you get up in the basket and you’re sitting there, it’s really a wonderful feeling to feel that wind in your face.”
Parker added that he feels the program is really going to open a lot of doors for community members that haven’t had the ability to get out and do these things, like ride around on the trails, and hear Joseph Creek, or visit Cranbrook’s many establishments.
“This means new relationships,” Kimmel said. “Being able to tell their stories, to get out in the community where they likely lived and worked and supported, it’s reaching people who are alone a lot of people are lonely and a lot of seniors are, and special populations that just can’t on a bike and ride the trails and get around. So it brings moments and it bridges generations.”
Kimmel added that she doesn’t think there is anything that isn’t right about the program; not only is it a wonderful thing for the riders, but for the pilots too.
“It feels so good to be able to do that, to share that time, to get to know people,” she said. “Most communities report a total positive change in residents and young people that are doing it at all ages.”
To become a pilot you can visit www.cranbrookscl.ca or the CWA Cranbrook Facebook page for more information.