Senior bike ride group cuts ribbon on new 'trishaw'

Cycling Without Age offers elderly, disabled 'wind in their hair'

David Gilbert
dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 10/5/20

Rachel Sheesley is used to rejection. Sheesley and her son Nick, a young man born with non-verbal autism, have been told no many times. “We have endured obstacles, stares, rude comments and feeling …

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Senior bike ride group cuts ribbon on new 'trishaw'

Cycling Without Age offers elderly, disabled 'wind in their hair'

Posted

Rachel Sheesley is used to rejection. Sheesley and her son Nick, a young man born with non-verbal autism, have been told no many times.

“We have endured obstacles, stares, rude comments and feeling isolated and misunderstood,” she said. “We had few opportunities for fun.”

So when Sheesley discovered Cycling Without Age's Littleton chapter, a group that provides rides along Littleton's trails aboard a specially-modified “trishaw” electric bike, she expected another no.

“I figured they would be just another group to say 'Sorry, we can't accommodate you.'”

Instead, Barb Lotze, who heads the group, gave an enthusiastic yes. Soon Rachel and Nick were strapping into the trishaw's love seat-like bench, and setting off along the Mary Carter Greenway, guided by a “pilot” who shared stories about Littleton's history and trails as they rode.

“For two decades I've longed to go on a bike ride with my sweet son,” Sheesley said. “It's an incredible blessing.”

It's a blessing many more riders will now get to experience, after Lotze and others from the Visiting Angels senior services organization cut the ribbon on the group's second trishaw on Sept. 28.

Founded in 2019 by Lotze, former Littleton mayor Phil Cernanec and others, Littleton's chapter of Cycling Without Age joins more than 2,200 chapters worldwide. The goal is to give seniors and others with limited mobility a chance to get outside, and “feel the wind in their hair,” Lotze said.

Littleton's group started with one trishaw, and over the last winter gave a handful of rides to seniors.

After the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March, the group's popularity began growing as seniors felt stifled under strict lockdowns at senior living facilities. Lotze began working to raise funds to buy another trishaw — at a cost of more than $12,000, special-ordered from Cycling Without Age's headquarters in Denmark.

Fundraising was slow at first, Lotze said, but ridership, volunteers and donations all skyrocketed after the Littleton Independent wrote about the group in August. The group raised the funds for the second trishaw in a month, with a big chunk coming from an anonymous donor who gifted $5,000.

“Words can't express how grateful I am for how the community has come together to support us,” Lotze said. “This is such a profound way to honor our seniors, and to be inspired by folks who deal with challenges every day.”

Among those who discovered the group recently was Mary Dailey, who said seeing the article about the group on the Independent's front page was an answer to her family's prayers.

Dailey's mom, Molly McNally-Dunn, lives in a senior home, and longed to get outdoors on bike rides, but wasn't up to the physical demands.

“I saw the article, and I just lit up,” Dailey said. “It was perfect for my mom, and perfect for me — I had been looking for something uplifting to get involved in. Everything just clicked.”

Now, Dailey volunteers as a trishaw pilot, and McNally-Dunn is a “frequent flyer.”

“The rides give me such a feeling of freedom, of joy, of connection witih nature,” McNally-Dunn said. “I have missed nature so much. I've never been to Hudson Gardens. Imagine the joy I felt the first time I rode through.”

Having the second trishaw will allow the group to expand from three rides a day to six or more, Lotze said, and branch out from the area around the Mary Carter Greenway, perhaps offering rides in the vicinity of farther-flung senior homes.

What's next for the group?

“Well,” Lotze said, “I guess we'll get started on raising funds for trishaw number three.”

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