Cycling Without Age Makes Biking More Accessible
Fortunately for those who lead an active lifestyle, Lynchburg and the surrounding areas are home to many unique outdoor activities—from hiking at the Peaks of Otter or a relaxing walk down the Blackwater Creek Trail to a drive through the Blue Ridge Parkway. For the less able-bodied in our area, however, maintaining an active or outdoorsy lifestyle is a less viable option as time goes on. >>
However, a simple idea that migrated from Copenhagen to Lynchburg is helping the 50-plus community lead a more active lifestyle. Cycling Without Age (CWA) is an organization with a simple premise: to give folks an outdoor tour of their city with a unique twist. Rides are offered to passengers in a modified bicycle called a “tri-shaw,” which is part rickshaw and part tricycle. The “pilot” or cyclist leading the tri-shaw guides their passengers through different city paths while stoking good conversation.
Jimmy Roux, a University of Lynchburg communications professor and avid cyclist, was researching different bicycle commuting options for work when he happened upon a Ted Talk on YouTube. Ole Kassow, CWA’s founder, explained how the once-avid cyclists of Denmark were now constrained to park benches or their homes due to their age. His desire to reinvigorate their love for the wind in their hair and the city helped create the first CWA chapter in Copenhagen and spawned roughly 2,000 more around the world.
Roux and his wife were inspired and determined to bring CWA’s mission to Lynchburg. In 2021, the Lynchburg chapter was formed. According to Roux, Lynchburg is the third city in Virginia to have a CWA chapter, right behind Williamsburg and Richmond.
Despite launching during the pandemic, when many businesses were closing its doors, Roux seemed to thrive, as CWA’s model was a natural counter to the more negative aspects of the pandemic.
“I think people thought it would be a hindrance. But the pandemic helped us,” Roux said. “Since it’s outdoors I think it’s less restrictive for us. The people seemed to be willing to go outdoors and participate.”
One Friday each month, Roux and any other volunteer pilots would partner with Westminster Canterbury to offer rides to residents. CWA also partnered with Lynchburg Parks and Rec for a similar model of offering rides one day out of the month.
CWA has only one tri-shaw, but Roux and his fleet of pilots are managing to provide dozens of elderly with their unique experience.
“The first season we had 39 passengers, this last season we had 105 passengers, so we’re growing,” Roux said.
According to Roux, a season spans a calendar year. Being a nonprofit, CWA relied on donations and grants to raise money for their current tri-shaw, which costs roughly $12,000. Roux says they are currently halfway-funded for a second tri-shaw.
CWA’s board is also composed of volunteers. Bikes Unlimited owner John Seinar now serves as president of the board as of 2022.
“Being involved in the cycling community, CWA was a natural transition for me,” Seinar said.
The tri-shaw is housed at Bikes Unlimited, and Seinar was pivotal in guiding Roux and CWA in servicing and constructing the tri-shaw.
Despite their positions on the board, Roux and Seinar are still avid tri-shaw pilots.
“I got a little choked up when I gave my first ride as a pilot. It was more monumental than I thought it was going to be,” Seinar said.
He recalled his passengers being a father and son who were just having an open conversation during the ride.
“You get to hear people’s stories. You get to talk to them and get to know them as a pilot,” Roux said. “We’ve had people who’ve never been on a bike before.”
Roux’s favorite part of his job is being a pilot and just sharing the experience he has being outdoors with his passengers.
“We just wanna have fun. I think the pure enjoyment of it all is key,” Roux said.
Both Roux and Seinar agree that CWA’s current and persisting challenge is simply spreading the word.
“We’ve gotten so much support from everyone so far,” Roux said.
More awareness of Lynchburg’s chapter brings more volunteer pilots and more funding for additional tri-shaws.
Seinar envisions expanding CWA’s reach beyond just the 50-plus age criteria to others wanting to experience the outdoors in the back of a tri-shaw.
“Anybody and everybody. It doesn’t matter how they’re on a bike, we’re just interested in getting people on a bike. I think it could be really meaningful for a lot of different people in town,” Seinar said.
Volunteer pilots and those who would like to be passengers can sign up online at cyclingwithoutage.com/lynchburg.