Joy Rides

Sometimes a person just needs to get out of the house. And sometimes that person just needs a little extra help getting out.

The Walker Lions in Minnesota are determined to be those helpers. As part of the Cycling Without Age program, they hope to help their seniors — including retired veterans — breathe some fresh air, feel the wind in their hair, and enjoy the company of friends. Although known as “The Land of 10,000 Lakes,” Minnesota actually has 11,842 lakes listed on their state inventory, and many are accompanied by scenic hiking and bicycling trails.

Older couple smiles in a trishaw
A couple tries out the Walker Lions’ new trishaw – a three-wheeled cycle that enables everyone to enjoy the great outdoors, no pedaling required.

With the aid of the Lions’ new trishaw, or Triobike Taxi, from Texas, the seniors can skip the peddling part of bicycling. They will be front and center, enjoying the sights while somebody else does the work from behind.

The trishaw is a light, three-wheeled bike driven by a trained cyclist who can transport two passengers anywhere a normal bicycle could go. The passengers ride up front in what resembles a carriage seat, and the cyclist or pilot pedals and steers from behind. Although the Cycling Without Age program started in Denmark in 2012 and is in 50 countries and several states now, this is the first north of the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

The Lions, along with Cass County Statewide Health Improvement Partnership and May Creek Senior Living, began working on the project in the fall of 2019, and contributions for the US$10,000 bicycle came from various community sources. But shortly after their trishaw was assembled and ready to ride, COVID-19 arrived, says Club President Gary Walworth.

Pandemic restrictions put a quick stop to the program, but for a brief period in late summer, there was time for a few people to safely try it out. People were eager to ride, but many more are on a list, waiting, like the Lions, for the virus to be gone and for spring to arrive.

Rides for the seniors will be about an hour long and coordinated from five sites including churches, the senior living center, and the American Legion Club. Each site will have a coordinator and their own trained pilots, so the pilots and the passengers can develop a camaraderie while traveling over the many trails in northern Minnesota. Women from Hope Lutheran Church in Walker made quilts to keep passengers warm.

“Everybody who has been out has been just thrilled with it,” says Walworth. “Now more than ever our senior citizens need to get out and enjoy life. Once we have beaten this pandemic — and we will — the Walker Lions will be ready.”