In our ageing society, the social questions around growing old are some of the most difficult to answer. Although people are living healthy lives for longer, the individualistic tendencies of modern society have seen a rise in loneliness, isolation and social exclusion amongst our oldest citizens. Various community projects have sought to counteract this, including the #30DaysOfFriendship campaign, initiatives by GMCVO’s GM Ageing Hub and voluntary friendship schemes such as Manchester Mind and Chorlton Good Neighbours.

Based in Trafford, the first Cycling Without Age team in Greater Manchester is peddling a sociable solution that could combine sustainable transport with social interaction and the opportunity to get outdoors. While still in its nascent stages here, there are several real-life examples for inspiration, as the initiative has taken off internationally since being launched in Copenhagen in 2012. The Trafford founders, Kate Elliott, Karen Henson and Jennifer Blears, are encouraging more people to get involved to realise the vision for the borough and beyond.

They have taken the time to answer our questions about the trishaw vehicle, their plans for the project and their successes so far. Read on the find out more.

What is your vision for the Cycling Without Age project in Trafford and Greater Manchester?

CWA Trafford want to decrease loneliness for the elderly and other isolated members of our community by taking them out on these bike rides. The scheme will bring generations closer together using very special trishaws – three-wheel cycles with a passenger cab out front. Our principles are generosity, slow cycling, storytelling, relationships and community. Our rides will be comfortable, fun, fully insured and free. They will enable people to experience the city and nature close-up from the bicycle.

We’d love to see the scheme roll out over Greater Manchester, but we wanted to start with our local area.

What encouraged you that this would be a good fit for the area? Were you looking for something like this or did you have the idea and then discover the CWA network?

All three of us wanted to put back in to our community and struggle with the idea that many of our elderly community members are isolated and lonely. Kate and Jennifer are keen cyclists and loved the idea of this scheme, as cycling brings so much joy to our lives. Karen has personal experience of relatives in care homes and, if this scheme was available at the time, it would have made such a difference. We then saw a piece on Cycling Without Age by the BBC, where Fraser Johnston talks about the benefits of the scheme in Scotland, and we were sold that this was a great idea for Trafford.

What is a trishaw and how easy is it to use?

A trishaw is a three-wheeled passenger cycle with a passenger cab at the front which can take two people. The trishaw is assisted by a battery, making it easier to ride for the pilots. Trafford is very flat, so it is ideal for anyone to take people out on rides, no matter how fit you are. The Trishaw is very stable and anyone who volunteers to pilot it will be provided with training before taking people out.

The Trishaw has a hood and warm blanket for those rainy Manchester days. It has a removable section in the footrest, making getting in and out easy. We can take it on local residential roads or even on off-road sections to get closer to nature.

What aspects of other areas’ CWA schemes would you like to see in Trafford and GM?

The movement has spread around the world and we have seen photographs and quotes from service users, pilots and members of the public demonstrating how wonderful the scheme is and we want to bring the same experiences to Trafford.

What have you been able to do with funds so far, such as those raised through crowdfunding?

We have so far raised £5,700 through crowdfunding, a Manchester Soup event, a bake sale and through receiving a grant from the Trafford Housing Trust’s Social Investment Fund. This has meant that we can order the trishaw and use it to raise the remaining funds. We hope to take delivery of the trishaw in time to use it over the summer. We are still seeking funds to cover the insurance and running costs of the scheme.

How else can people get involved?

We would love to hear from volunteers who would like to ‘pilot’ the bike rides. Please get in touch on cwatrafford@gmail.com or through our Facebook page.

If you are involved with a company who is interested in community, social care and working with the elderly, or if you’re a local business looking to support your local community and are interested in helping us build the Chapter, please get in touch.

Donations can also be made through Paypal, which can be accessed through the ‘Donate’ button on our Facebook page.

Finally, if you have a relative in a care facility in Trafford or nearby and you think that they would benefit from the scheme, please get in touch with us and we can discuss bringing the trishaw to the care home.

Can we expect to see CWA at any events over the summer?

We have a few events lined up, but until we get confirmation of the trishaw delivery we can’t commit or advertise them yet. Keep an eye out on our Facebook page for announcements!

Ian Pennington