By Jeff Zdrale  

“Cheryl, I’ve heard of rickshaws, but what the heck are trishaws?”

That’s what I asked Cheryl Zadrazil at Fox Cities Greenways, Inc., and when I started to learn about the Cycling Without Age (CWA) program.

Volunteer pilot Holly Keenan pedals a rider in a trishaw, a pedal-assisted cargo bike for Cycling Without Age, a worldwide movement that aims to bring joy and vitality to older adults and those with differing abilities.

She told me about trishaws. They’re pedal-assisted cargo bikes that propel a roofless cab seating one or two people.

“It’s a great way for older people and those with differing abilities to get outdoors and to interact more with their community,” Zadrazil said.

This program started in Denmark in 2012. Ole Kassow wanted to give senior citizens with limited mobility in his town a chance to enjoy a bike ride outdoors — with someone else doing all the pedaling.

That’s how the CWA movement began.

This new effort was quickly adopted by many communities in the United States. But notably, as Michelle Bachaus with the Wisconsin Bike Federation said, “Oshkosh was the first community in the nation to offer CWA services.”

Getting this plan off the ground was the result of a collaboration among several key organizations. Fox Cities Greenways, Inc. has served as the main fund-raising agent. The Wisconsin Bike Federation is providing the orientation and training of volunteer drivers (pilots).            

Lutheran Social Services is coordinating the scheduling of CWA rides and the Retired & Senior Volunteer 55+ Program is recruiting volunteer pilots. In addition, the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission provided valuable information about mapping and the location of CWA routes.

During the past several years, CWA services have been provided by some assisted living facilities, including Brewster Village, Rennes Health Center and the Valley VNA. However, only the residents of these communities were eligible to participate. Now, for the first time, CWA will be offered to people in the entire Fox Valley, including Winnebago, Outagamie and Calumet counties.

The key organization charged with making CWA a go is Lutheran Social Services. Holly Keenan, mobility manager at LSS, is coordinating CWA as a component of its Make the Ride Happen program. Holly, who debuted a trishaw by piloting it in the Appleton Christmas parade, wants to “target seniors who are isolated.” LSS has one trishaw and one transport trailer now, but she thinks that additional trishaws are in CWA’s future.

Jan Sommerfeld, RSVP director, sees CWA as a great new opportunity for volunteers wanting to provide unique help to seniors and those with different abilities. “We’ve already had 11 people sign up and the next training is scheduled for May,” she said.

I also got some more practical information from Michelle Bachaus. I was curious about the orientation and training of pilot volunteers. Michelle described the training as having these components: 1.5 hours of classroom work covering CWA’s history, safety procedures, rules of the road and pre-trip maintenance skills with a short practice in an outdoor area. Another hour of pedaling, followed by a final check conclude the training.

“What about hills?” I asked. “As a pilot I’d be pushing pretty heavy cargo.”

Michelle reminded me that the trishaws have a “pedal assist” coming from a small battery-powered motor. “You always have to keep your feet on the pedals. But the trishaw will move without a lot of work from you. It will never go faster than 4 or 5 miles per hour,” she said.

Being a CWA pilot sounds like fun. The rider gets an outing and so do I! It’s an opportunity for me to spend some quality time with my rider and also to get acquainted with a different area of our community.

Upcoming training sessions will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on May 12 and May 13. The session on May 12 will provide classroom training, while the session on May 13 will cover pedal training. Rain date is May 20. Both sessions will be held at Oak Park Place, 2205 Midway Rd., Menasha. If you are interested in attending, contact Jan Sommerfeld at 920-832-9360 or rsvp@volunteerfoxcities.org

Any monetary donations you might like to make to CWA can be sent to Cheryl Zadrazil at Fox Cities Greenways, Inc., P.O. Box 5, Menasha, WI, 54952-0005.

To schedule a trishaw ride, contact Holly Keenan at Lutheran Social Services at 920-225-1719 or MRH@lsswis.org.

Most important to us at RSVP, here’s what to do if you’d like to become a volunteer pilot: Contact RSVP at 920-832-9360 or rsvp@volunteerfoxcities.org. 

Take advantage of this great chance to do something helpful and different for our community.

Happy cycling!  

Editor’s note: Jeff Zdrale is a member of RSVP and also serves on the RSVP Community Council.