Associate Feature: Widespread Cross-Party Support Gets Wheels Rolling
Five years ago, when Cycling Without Age Scotland (CWAS) introduced into the country a unique and pioneering form of mobility assistance transport, we knew that it would have a major beneficial impact on all who participated in the venture we were about to launch. We were also confident that it would change participants’ attitudes to sustainable transport, and their practices, especially in the context of e-bikes. What we hadn’t anticipated was the scale at which these outcomes would be delivered. It is substantial and growing all the time.
From 5th September 2017, when we launched CWAS at a packed cross-party parliamentary event, the Scottish Government has been with us all the way, and that’s been a major factor in our continuing success.
A registered charity, CWAS provides specialist trishaws and trains pilots (riders) to provide rides in them to people dealing with mobility issues, disability, loneliness or isolation. It does this for people of all ages, but predominantly the elderly, and we have active associations with a very large number of care homes throughout Scotland. Through this activity, people who rarely get out and about are enabled to enjoy fresh air and beautiful countryside, to be part of their community, to meet old friends and make new ones and to experience uplifting camaraderie. Passengers and their families and carers use descriptors like “life enhancing”, “life enriching” and “life extending”. Pilots benefit hugely too: from exercise and being in the fresh air to the enormous fulfilment and increased wellbeing through supporting their passengers and the friendships that develop.
CWAS delivers its service through volunteers in affiliated but independently managed branches (known as “Chapters”) in every part of the country, from the borders to our islands. We started with one Trishaw in one Chapter at the Carrondale Care Home and now have more than eighty Trishaws operating in approaching sixty Chapters, with twenty more in development. Thanks to the support of the Scottish Government, every ride is provided completely free of charge.
Whilst delivering those benefits to passengers and pilots is of paramount importance to us, we are also passionate about playing our part in the increased uptake of and support for sustainable transport. And there is strong, clear evidence that this is happening in all our Chapters on a substantial scale.
For many pilots, riding a CWAS Trishaw is their first experience of using an e-bike and large numbers instantly become converts, with many now having acquired their own e-bikes. Significantly, they are using these e-bikes, instead of their cars, not just for getting to and from where the Trishaws are kept, but for as many local journeys as possible. Similarly, every time a care facility resident rides out in a CWAS Trishaw, it is one less traditionally motorised journey, and this is happening in locations all across Scotland hundreds of times every week. Through CWAS trishaws, many family members of care facility residents are encountering e-bikes for the first time too, and increasing numbers of those are also now acquiring and using e-bikes. Nearly all confirm that they didn’t realise what they were missing. That’s not just the assisted exercise and fresh air, but discovering that it’s almost always considerably quicker to do a local journey on your bike on path networks than in your car!
Cycling Without Age Scotland has the ambitious long-term aim to be providing our unique service in every city, town and village in Scotland. We may not achieve that, but we will strive determinedly towards doing so, and it is enormously encouraging to know that, not only is every single one of the many thousands of Trishaw rides that we provide each year contributing to transport in a truly sustainable and environmentally conscious way, but that everyone with whom we interact is seeing, first hand, the benefits of e-bikes and many are becoming enthusiastic users.
Christine Bell is CEO of Cycling Without Age Scotland.
This article is sponsored by CWAS.