12 December, 2023

Cycling Without Age in Nelson, BC: Creating Multigenerational Connections on a Bike!

A family riding a trishaw (a three wheel bike) along a trail

Cycling Without Age is a worldwide volunteer organization that aims to reduce social isolation and increase mental and physical health for everyone. Chapters can be found across Canada, from busy urban centres like Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax to smaller towns and communities like Medicine Hat and Fernie. We spoke with Wendy Baker-Konkin at Cycling Without Age’s Nelson, BC, chapter about the impact of getting outside and participating in rides, both on and off the Trans Canada Trail.

The Nelson chapter of Cycling Without Age was founded in May 2018 when they received their first trishaw – a three-wheeled bike, with a bench seat wide enough for two passengers in the front – which allows volunteer cyclists, or pilots, to transport passengers around town and on nature rides.

Now, five-plus years later, the organization counts two trishaws and 25 trained pilots on their active volunteer list.

Wendy shares, “I had heard about Cycling Without Age as I have a family connection with Denmark, where the organization began in 2012. It sounded like a fantastic idea. I was deeply inspired by the guiding principles of Cycling Without Age: generosity, slowness, storytelling, relationships and without age.”

Building relationships along the ride

Three elderly adults enjoying a leisurely trishaw ride along a scenic trail

Cycling Without Age Nelson operates primarily in the city of Nelson, but has participated in events in neighbouring areas, including Kaslo, Ymir and Salmo. As the Trans Canada Trail runs right through town, the group is often on the Trail – often in Lakeside Park, which is situated right next to a major independent seniors’ residence where several of their passengers live. They also bring passengers to view the murals in downtown Nelson.

Wendy says that users on both sides benefit from being outside together. She says the impact of “being outside, gaining access to an area that is not within your mobility limits to access on your own, experiencing nature in the company of others” should not be understated. She continues, “The focus of Cycling Without Age is really to end loneliness. When you get out and visit while biking, biking becomes secondary; the human connection comes through.”

A “forest bathing” opportunity

An elderly woman seated on a bench attached to a trishaw, with an adult man standing beside the trishaw

Pilots and passengers also occasionally head out along a more rural area that travels through the forest, with views of the surrounding mountains and Kootenay Lake below, overlooking Trans Canada Trail’s West Arm Provincial Park water route. Wendy describes the rides as “a chance to experience nature” for both pilots and passengers, with great reception from those they pass en route. “On our rides, people and animals we meet are always happy to see us. In this forest setting, people we encounter are excited to see elders out enjoying nature. Our passengers tell other folks they know or live with about their experience, who are then interested in participating in a trail ride.”

Visiting loved ones – and furry friends!

On one recent ride, a member of the group brought along their small dog; on another outing, the group went on a geocaching adventure! To Wendy, creating new experiences is part of what Cycling Without Age is all about – for example, to provide an outdoor setting for people to see their loved ones rather than planning a visit in a residence, or to develop strong friendships between pilots and passengers.

Wendy loves seeing close relationships form between pilots and passengers through the rides. She explains, “Some people see us as people who bring others from point A to point B. But it’s really about the relationship and the journey that gets you there.”

Watch this great video about Cycling Without Age Nelson

Find a Cycling Without Age chapter near you, on or off the Trail!