Cycling without age comes to castlemaine
1 June 2022
Cycling advocate and Campbells Creek resident Penny Gilbert has been working with adults and kids across Central Victoria for years instilling a joy of cycling.
Not content to promote traditional two-wheel bikes and cargo bikes, Penny is now opening a new frontier with Dutch-designed tri-shaws to bring the open trail to the elderly and people with a disability.
Tell us about you and cycling. What do you love most about it?
I’ve always ridden a bike, As a teenager I’d ride my cheapo girl’s racer along the corrugated dirt back roads of Yackandandah every weekend. Later, I road to uni everyday, sometimes with a fully-loaded backpack. And as a new parent, I rode with my baby in a front seat and my dog running alongside.
These days I run CycleSafe Mount Alexander and I’ve also been involved in the Bubs on Bikes Cargo-bike Expo. What I love most about that work is seeing the joy on people’s faces when they ride a bike. Now, I’m keen to future proof that feeling too. The babies who ride on their parents bikes will be the ones volunteering to pedal me around on a tri-shaw when I’m too old to ride anymore.
What is CWAA?
Cycling Without Age Australia (CWAA) is part of a world-wide movement. Its a bike program to take our older community members out of their homes or care facilities on a bike ride. It’s a free joy-ride for people who would otherwise be stuck inside, separated from their community. We now have a dedicated group of volunteers working to get this going in Castlemaine and Maldon.
What grabbed your attention about it as a concept?
A TED Talk by Ole Kassow. Ole tells a story about seeing an old man outside his aged care facility everyday. Ole knew the man must have once cycled regularly and Ole wanted to find a way to take this man out once more. A week later he had a tri-shaw, and took two people from the facility out for a ride. The effect was immediate. The joy of riding was given back to these people without them having to do the cycling. Ole was inspired and launched CWA. It is now in 52 countries and helps bridge generations.
Can you describe those bike tri-shaw things for us?
They’re a couch on wheels! The passengers sit in a very comfortable seat at the front of a Dutch-made powered three-wheeler. There are seat belts, an overhead canopy and even a specially fitted foot and leg blanket.
Tell us about what riding in one will feel like? How about for the volunteer riders?
I made a movie on the front of the bike as I got ridden around. It was so much fun! My friend and I had big smiles and sweet laughter for the whole lap. Later, I took the pilot role and it was really quite easy to ride the trishaw even though I had two people on the couch. What really struck me though was the ease of conversation when we were riding.
How do you hope CWAA will make a difference to peoples’ lives?
I saw my own grandmother and grandmother-in-law decline in mental health as they entered a care facility. It was the regular multi-generational contact and being part of the world that they missed. I want to give our older community members a way of staying in our community in a joyful way. These bikes are a talking point; they draw people to them. The connection between the pilots and passengers is a source of story-sharing, their lives of older people will be seen and recognised.
Is Castlemaine ready for this?!!
We are very ready for this! We have a great culture of volunteers, beautiful trails and tracks and an ageing population who needs us.
How are you getting started with it? When can we expect to see the first ones on the streets?
Our “Show and Tell” event last month demonstrated to the community that there is real interest from health organisations such as CHIRP, ArCare and Castlemaine Health. We’re also getting help from The Hub Foundation. Now, we need to explore how our program can work for each of these heatlh organisations. The big step after that is fundraising to acquire a bike or two. They cost about $18,000 each.
Who are you looking for as volunteer riders? How do they apply?
We need volunteer riders (or pilots) – and as well as people to help manage the organisation. People who are good at organising to get bikes, volunteers and passengers in the right place at the right time. Volunteers can contact You can follow us on Facebook or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can you see these tri-shaws out on a trail, like the future Castlemainee-Maryborough rail trail or Campbells Creek trail? What kind of experience will that give the passengers away from traffic?
CMRT and CWAA is a match made in heaven. Imagine someone who used to live in Guildford having a ride from the hospital along the CMRT to have lunch at the pub or cafe! Imagine stopping to watch birds along the creek track or the children from childcare showing you their stick cubbies along the Campbells Creek trail. Imagine being able to travel in a way that allows you to experience being outside and free, to feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair! Maybe some of your CMRT volunteers will want to join our team too!
Editor’s note: We haven’t secured a crystal ball (yet), so we’re not 100% sure how these tri-shaw things will go on our trail-to-be. But we’re optimists, and we’ll keep open minds and open hearts while CWAA gets going.
CycleSafe Mount Alexander and CMRT are both founding members of Mount Alexander Cycling, an umbrella advocacy group that has begun advocating to local and state government on behalf of the region’s thousands of cyclists.