Cycling Without Age Scotland has launched its latest branch at The Helix to allow those with mobility issues to see round a four-mile, traffic-free route on newly purchased trishaws.
Funded by Communities Along The Carron Association and Falkirk Common Good Fund, the trishaws are operated by volunteers and have been affectionately named after the inspirations for The Kelpies, Duke and Baron.
The Helix branch becomes Cycling Without Age Scotland’s 53rd chapter and enhances its Falkirk district options further.
Already included are: Airthrey Care Home; Burnbrae Care Home; Carrondale Care Home; Callendar Park; and Denny and Dunipace.
To mark the launch, which coincides with Canal Encounters Cycling Week (August 16-22), a parade of trishaws, including Duke and Baron and 20 passengers, will leave The Kelpies and follow the new chapter’s track along the towpath to The Falkirk Wheel, taking in the Canal Encounters Activity Trail as they go.
Christine Bell, Cycling Without Age Scotland chief executive officer, said: “We are thrilled that a new Cycling Without Age Scotland Chapter is going to be operating at one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks, serving both local communities and visitors from around the world.
“What makes it especially exciting is that this is the first chapter in our Trishaws in Iconic Places campaign which we announced at our last parliamentary reception.
“It’s a really great connector with Scottish Canals, the John Muir Way and the Antonine Wall.
“The chapter has been in the planning for three years. In 2017, we identified the possibility of having one and it took about a year to get funding for two trishaws based at The Helix.
“I was co-founder of the Communities Along the Carron Association, which recognised the possibility for Cycling Without Age Scotland. We’d been working with agencies since 2010 on helping build paths and connections along the River Carron.
“We did a consultation of over 3000 people in preparation for it. Elderly people wanted to access routes along the river and wanted it to be the recreational place it used to be, pre-industrial use.
“When we got all the access paths in, the place was hugely improved and we wanted to find a way to take the elderly to these places – that’s where the impetus for Cycling Without Age in Denmark came from.
“Our pledge was if it’s right for Scotland, we’d launch it in Scotland. We launched it and got huge support – the Scottish Government asked us how to roll it out across the whole country.
“We had to set it up as a charity to do that.
“This chapter has been in the pipeline since March 2018 when we officially became Cycling Without Age Scotland.
“It brings joy and elation to people, especially to people who haven’t been out or can’t walk a great distance. The trishaws are accessible for assisted wheelchairs and wheelchair-dependent people and are free to anybody with mobility restrictions but all donations are welcome.
“It’s a fabulous way for elderly people to get out in the fresh air and just enjoy life.”
Like many organisations, Cycling Without Age Scotland, which is headquartered in Larbert, hasn’t been exempt from the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Had it not been for Covid, its volunteers would have launched The Helix chapter last year. However, they’ve raced ahead with ideas since restrictions began easing.
Christine continued: “In 2018 we said we’d be looking to develop trishaws at iconic places all over Scotland and make them accessible to people with limited mobility.
“We're looking to roll it out in the Botanics in Edinburgh and Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow.
“It’s all volunteers who ride them. We’re trying to recruit as many volunteers as we can. We’ll host training sessions and get them all qualified.”
One of the first people to try out a trishaw at The Helix was Newcarron Court Care Home resident Kate Forsyth.
Paul Lawson, the facility’s customer relations manager, said: “We brought along one of our residents, who said she had the time of her life being a passenger.
“She loves the fresh air and the countryside and spotted lots of wildlife along the route which made her really happy.”
Richard Millar, Scottish Canals’ chief operating officer, said: “As safe green active travel routes, we are delighted to welcome Cycling Without Age Scotland trishaws to our towpaths as it has long been an ambition to have trishaws based on the canal network permanently.
“As we seek to continually add new experiences, such as Canal Encounters and The Wheel 2 Kelpies selfie trail, we are delighted to work with Cycling Without Age Scotland to realise the benefits of making sure that Scotland’s canals can be enjoyed by everyone for leisure and recreation purposes.”
Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn said: “Falkirk Council has been involved in Cycling Without Age Scotland since it was launched here in Falkirk in 2017 by Communities Along the Carron Association.
“We are delighted now to see this hugely successful project being rolled out, with support from the Scottish Government, across Scotland, the only country in the worldwide Cycling Without Age movement to have received its government’s pledged support for a country-wide roll-out.
“The Kelpies in The Helix Park are iconic in our council area and having two trishaws named after them and operating in the park will not only enable more of our local residents to access the site but will be of benefit to our visitors too and enhance our commitment to providing accessible tourism in the heart of Falkirk.”
Canal Encounters is a walking, cycling, paddling, boating or wheeling trail, running along the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal until August 29.
To book a Cycling Without Age Scotland trishaw, or offer a helping hand, call 01324 467272.