How a Vernon rickshaw program lets seniors feel the wind in their hair - InfoNews

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How a Vernon rickshaw program lets seniors feel the wind in their hair

Lauren Lypchuk (pedalling), takes Colleen Chase (left) and Carol Hocken, for a spin outside the Schubert Centre.
April 11, 2019 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - At 74 years old Dr. Jim Wynd is probably the oldest of over 40 volunteers who are ready and willing to pedal a rickshaw.

Wynd has signed up to pilot the bike as part of the newly formed Vernon chapter of Cycling Without Age, a not-for-profit organization that take seniors and less abled people out as passengers for leisure trips on purpose-built rickshaw called a Trishaw.

Set for its official launch in Vernon on June 1, the program is the brainchild Lauren Lypchuk and her husband Ward Strong. The couple first heard about Cycling Without Age two years ago and founded the Vernon chapter of the worldwide organization in January 2018.

"It allows people to be a part of society that they are not part of right now," Lypchuk says. "Our seniors and less able people are marginalized in society and there isn't a lot for them outdoors."

The bike is a way of changing that.

And I'll while the demographic for passengers is aimed at seniors, Wynd jumped at the chance to be the pilot instead.

"It's seniors taking seniors for rides," he jokes, adding he'd happily do it all day every day, and he is especially looking forward to riding down the Okanagan Rail Trail.

As a family physician, Lypchuk sees first hand how seniors often don't get outside very often, and even when they do, it's for an appointment and very rarely just for fun.

The motto of this program is: The right to feel the wind in your hair.

"It's about going slow, so we have an opportunity to talk to people... just to experience being out of their four walls," Lypchuk says.

With a $12,000 grant from the Community Foundation of North Okanagan — and a lot of fundraising — the $15,500 electric assist Trishaw was recently bought and arrangements made for the program to run out of the Schubert Centre, a local senior's community centre. With dozens of volunteers ready to pilot the rickshaw the scheme is set to run seven days a week, providing 28 rides of between 30 to 90 minutes. 

And the program is more than just about taking seniors for a bike ride.

"The whole philosophy is to engage volunteers from the community," Lypchuk says.

Lypchuk's aunt Carol Hocken and friend Colleen Chase are both seniors, although still active and don't consider themselves in the demographic to be passengers on the rickshaw.

But given the smiles that shine from their faces once they're on board, it seems they're thoroughly enjoying it. And they both agree, being a passenger on the rickshaw is a wonderful experience.

"I can't ride a bike, so this is wonderful," Chase says. "There's nothing else like it."

Chase's breathing problems mean she can't walk much and being on the bike is a great way to get outside more. Hocken agrees and says if she spends too much time indoors it makes her miserable.

It's good mentally, good emotionally, people are being more social, it helps with depression, those with chronic conditions get to forget about them for a while, Lypchuk lists off a seemingly endless list of benefits.

With the program established in Denmark in 2012, now boasting 2,200 rickshaws in 1,500 chapters spread throughout 42 countries worldwide, Lypchuk's points to the program's success everywhere it goes. Currently, the Vernon chapter has one rickshaw but the hope is to have three bikes in the future.

With a website currently in the works, Lypchuk can be contacted at: cyclingwithoutage.vernon.bc@gmail.com.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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