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by Christine Bell, Cycling Without Age Scotland
24 May 2024
Associate Feature: Milestone moment for highly successful government backed project

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Associate Feature: Milestone moment for highly successful government backed project

On April 29th, in Helix Park, Cycling Without Age Scotland (CWAS) opened its first Hub in its “Trishaw Rides In Iconic Places” (TRIIP) programme, designed to significantly increase accessibility to Scotland’s principal visitor sites and, in doing so, to boost tourism and economies.

It was a milestone for CWAS, the charity which the Scottish Government has supported since inception. This therefore seemed appropriate timing to thank and update the Government.

Across Scotland, CWAS provides rides, free of charge, in e-bike Trishaws to people of any age, but especially the elderly, who have mobility challenges or live in isolation and/or loneliness. This gets people into the fresh air and into their communities. It stimulates and provides social intergenerational interaction, especially between passengers and Pilots (riders), who are all volunteers, and greatly improved accessibility.

Highly visible, our Trishaws forcefully promote e-bikes and many Pilots, inspired by CWAS experience, now have their own e-bikes for daily use, especially for shorter journeys. Also, because of the camaraderie and comprehensive support provided, CWAS entices into physical activity people who otherwise might not have participated. 60+% of our Pilots are women; many have never cycled, but are now doing so  -  motivated by helping others.

I led the first Trishaw trials in 2016, under the auspices of CATCA (Communities Along The Carron Association) for which I was Project Officer. Our aim was to enable people with limited mobility to access our new river paths and greenspaces. However, it immediately became clear to us and Government, at the highest level, that this could be a beneficial offering on a much broader scale. 

It could remove multiple barriers and enable accessibility - anywhere - for elderly people, carers, family members and younger people facing dispiriting and debilitating issues. That clarity resonated strongly with Government.

With Scottish Government funding and its enthusiastic support from the outset, CWAS launched in 2018. Recognising that, with good management, this idea would succeed, the Government entrusted us to ensure effective regulation across Scotland. Of primary importance was safety. CWAS ensures that every Pilot is properly trained and PVG cleared; that, through the organisation’s rigorous technical processes, including annual inspections, every Trishaw is roadworthy; and that everyone involved, and the public, is protected under our multi-faceted organisation-wide insurance. Operating at the standard required by the Care Inspectorate is essential for us.

CWAS is part of a global movement, Cycling Without Age (CWA), but our methodology, success and Government support are the envy of all other CWA national branches worldwide. We are the only one to support and manage every Trishaw in use in its country. This enables us to ensure countrywide continuation, reallocating Trishaw/s should enthusiasm wane in any branch or the branch fail, avoiding any of these valuable assets being abandoned and unused.

From five Trishaws in one branch in 2018, we now offer rides to anyone who merits them, in all but four local authorities, using 140 Trishaws across 80 branches, which we support in every possible way, from route and risk assessments and on-call technical support to fundraising, governance and marketing. We now have almost 2,000 volunteers benefiting enormously from this extremely unusual and highly fulfilling form of volunteering, very many of whom have said that their CWAS activity has played a major part in their Covid recovery.

We are currently experiencing exponential interest and growth; a new branch opens every 2 -3 months and c.20 volunteers join each week. With our present activity level, we will provide 40,000+ rides each year; that’s around 200,000+ miles in sustainable transport. Though we face challenges, not least funding, we intend to meet that ever-growing demand, operating soon in every local authority area in multiple sites. 

Our ethos is to “enrich, enhance and extend lives” and, with support from the Scottish Government, we will continue to do that for everyone who participates, playing a significant part in our society’s health, wellbeing and sustainable transport.

This article is sponsored by Cycling Without Age Scotland

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