20 June 2023

Pedal power: The volunteers pushing to make our cycle tracks more accessible for every age

| Keeli Royle
Start the conversation
Cycling Without Age President Paul Taylor guiding Judy Young and her dog Charlie on a trishaw ride

Cycling Without Age President Paul Taylor takes Judy Young and her dog Charlie for a ride. Photo: Keeli Royle.

Judy Young has lost her sight and has been unable to ride a bike for years.

But thanks to a unique piece of equipment and a small group of volunteers, she has finally been able to return to the track and recapture the cycling experience.

“It’s just so fantastic,” Judy said. “It’s the freedom of being back out in the open and being in the outdoors.”

Cycling Without Age Illawarra has been giving community members of every age and ability to chance to enjoy the Illawarra’s beautiful bike paths by offering rides on special electric trishaws for those who are unable to ride themselves.

The charity’s president Paul Taylor is one of the trained volunteer pilots who pedals around passengers free of charge.

“It gives people with low mobility the chance to get out into the fresh air and go for a bike ride,” he said.

READ ALSO Illawarra Festival of Cycling saddles up to recapture the ‘magic’ of the UCI Road World Championship

“I just think it will be marvellous for people who are really housebound and can’t get out,” Judy said. “It’s really easy to get on and I love every bit of it.”

The inclusive experience allows locals to explore their own community in an accessible way, without cost being a prohibitive factor.

“Last week we took a 90-year-old couple out to celebrate their anniversary,” Paul said. “They’ve lived here for a long time but they hadn’t been around this site for 15 years and the memories just came flooding back.”

The service also gives passengers the chance to interact with the wider community and meet new people.

“The pilots are always lovely,” Judy said. “But even the people you always pass walking their dogs, you get a smile from them too.”

Paul said that the social aspect can be just as beneficial for the pilots as it is for the passengers.

“You’re talking to people and you start off talking to two strangers and end up as three friends after 20 minutes,” said Paul.

Cycling Without Age is part of a worldwide movement pushing to address isolation and improve community engagement, with an increasing number of places seeing the benefit of investing in trishaws.

“They’re popping up all over the country,” Paul said. “It makes sense that the cycle city has one.”

But the trishaws don’t come cheap and the one currently being used by volunteers is just on loan throughout the winter.

READ ALSO Employers urged to embrace pedal power for happier, healthier workers

Now the local charity wants to invest in their own, which will set them back more than $20,000.

“We’ve raised about $7,000 in six months and we’re looking for grants,” Paul said.

He said that they’ve already received a grant from BluescopeWIN and are looking at everything from business partners to bake sales to help raise the funds.

“We’re so close to having a bike and being able to do what we want to do just need a little push to get us over the line and get us operating,” Paul said.

And buying the bike will be just the beginning, with insurance and storage fees set to be an ongoing cost for the not-for-profit organisation.

But advocates for the cause hope that once the community sees the benefit first-hand, they’ll realise the full potential of the investment.

“I just hope everyone takes as much advantage of it as they can,” Judy said.

To donate to Cycling Without Age and to find out more visit the charity’s fundraising page.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.