By Dauna Ditson
Special to the Pioneer
Two local cyclists think everyone should be able to enjoy a bike ride, no matter their age or level of mobility. That’s why Blaine Nester and Don Devlin are fundraising to bring two special bikes to Invermere. Volunteers pedal the specialized bikes while their passengers sit up front and enjoy the view. The bikes, called trishaws, are supported by electric assist so the volunteers can more-easily pedal their guests around.
Mr. Nester said he and Mr. Devlin arrived at the trishaw idea at the same time. Mr. Nester was inspired by a Cycling Without Age video he saw online, while Mr. Devlin wanted to give residents at Columbia Garden Village, where he is a caregiver, more opportunity to get out, connect with others and have a good time.
The Invermere group will be a chapter of Cycling Without Age, an international group that started in Copenhagen in 2012 to offer seniors and low-mobility individuals a chance to experience the freedom cycling offers. Mr. Nester said there are currently 1,100 Cycling Without Age chapters in 37 countries. Internationally, the oldest driver is 89 and the oldest passenger is 106.
In Invermere alone, Mr. Nester said there are approximately 200 people the program could serve. While he anticipates that seniors will make up the majority of the passengers, those with limited mobility and other limitations are welcome to go for a spin. Those who use wheelchairs will also be able to participate. Passengers will even be able to bring a guest – such as a care aid or a grandchild – with them for the ride.
The bikes meet regulations for use on public trails such as the Westside Legacy Trail, Mr. Nester said.
Mr. Nester and Mr. Devlin envision many benefits for the people of Invermere. The program will allow people who are often homebound an opportunity to get outdoors, Mr. Nester said. It will also build community by connecting volunteers and participants and helping them form relationships.
In Canmore, the first Cycling Without Age chapter in the province, organizers are noticing that participants are happier.
“Everything is all positive,” Mr. Nester said.
Earlier in the winter, the District of Invermere council unanimously supported the bike project by extending the District’s insurance coverage to the venture.
Council “wholeheartedly jumped behind it,” Mr. Nester said.
Mayor Gerry Taft told the Pioneer the project seems like a good fit for the community and that it is an exciting opportunity for residents.
Now that the insurance is in place, fundraising to purchase the bikes is the next big step. Mr. Nester’s goal is to raise $23,000 by the end of January to ensure Invermere’s program can begin taking passengers for rides this year. To make a tax-deductible donation to the project, residents can contact the Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance. The alliance will provide 100 per cent of any donations for the trishaw project directly to the bike program.
Those interested in volunteering to drive the bikes can sign up by contacting Mr. Nester at email@example.com.
Mr. Nester, age 55, said, “I live to ride my bike and when the day comes that I can’t, I think it would be awesome to have somebody take me around.”