If there is one memory from our youth that most all of us recall fondly, it’s our bicycle — whether it’s the trepidation of having our training wheels removed, heading downtown with our buddies to the local burger shop, exploring local trails, or the adrenaline rush you’d get while heading down the last hill toward home with the wind in your hair trying to beat curfew when the street lights came on.
This was the first taste of freedom and independence as we set off on our own for the day to explore, visit and enjoy the fresh air as we took in the world around us.
For some, the excitement of riding never left, and for Prescott resident Mark Shelley it would become a life-long hobby that brought him interaction with others and life full of health and vitality.
While teaching at Yavapai College, Mark became acquainted with a group, “Cycling without Age.” The concept was simple, connect with seniors and those with mobility issues to allow them to experience the joy of being outside while on a bike.
Founded in 2012 in Denmark by Ole Kassow, who through the use of a “Trishaw” or “Triobike” — which is basically a reversed rickshaw — began contacting local retirement and nursing homes offering rides around town.
Unlike a rickshaw, the triobike puts the rider facing forward in a covered seat, while the “pilot” pedals and guides their passengers on an evenly paced outdoor experience. This placement allows the riders an unrestricted view of their surroundings, bringing them face to face with other pedestrians and bike riders, interacting, waving and conversing along the way.
Studies have long proven that an engaged and active lifestyle provides for a longer, happier and healthier life.
In 2016, the group produced a documentary where 40 seniors from a nursing home in Ronde, Denmark, would take part in a trishaw parade of sorts to Norway, traveling 30 to 40 miles per day. Prior to the trip, the majority of the participants were using walkers, canes or other means of assistance to get around, including scooters and wheelchairs.
Over the course the trip, the members interacted, laughed, took in the sun, and enjoyed a variety of landscapes.
Upon their return the group was rejuvenated with their experience and memories awakened during their travels. Many forwent their previous assistance tools, were more mobile, energized and engaged.
Locally, with persistence and a goal in mind, Mark began presenting his plan of creating such a program in Prescott. With a cost of $10,000 for the bike, as well as other expenses, Mark approached community organizations, churches and the City of Prescott to help make the program a reality.
Finally, in 2020, the triobike arrived through a gift from the City of Prescott’s Parks & Rec Department, and a collaboration of community members. Cornerstone Church covers the insurance, Yavapai College provides storage, and local bike shops, High Gear and Ironclad, have provided repairs and parts.
Mark, along with 10 volunteer pilots, provide outings to seniors on a daily basis. By calling, or emailing Mark, the riders meet at a specified location. Peavine Trail is a popular destination as well as the Yavapai College Sculpture Garden and surrounding areas.
There are several trail options and the rides average about 1-1/2 hours. “But many times, especially with first time riders, they want to go farther because they are having such a great experience, so we may be out two hours,” Mark says.
With a combined weight of up to 600 pounds, the triobike does have electric capabilities to help through tougher areas or hills.
Generally two passengers ride at a time. The riders can take along a family member, caregiver or other acquaintance.
Recently, avid cyclist Jeanine Woods arranged for a ride for her mother, Yvonne, who recently entered an assisted living program. Jeanine had noticed the Trishaw in Mark’s driveway and inquired about it.
“She loved it!” Jeanine says. “We met Mark at the trailhead for the Peavine and my mom and her caregiver spent a cool Friday morning taking in the fresh air and tranquil views while I rode my bike alongside.”
“I just love getting folks outside and making them smile,” Mark said.
Currently, Mark has his eye on a used triobike in Colorado that costs $6,000. “Our goal is find a way through community donations to purchase that bike by the end of the year, and continue growing the program.”
While not a 501(c)3, donations can be made to “Cycling without Age Prescott,” one of only 12 programs of its kind in the United States.
For information on arranging rides, to become a pilot, or to make a donation, email email@example.com, call 602-549-2109, or check out their facebook page cwaprescott.
Barry Barbe owns the El Gato Azul and Torme restaurants in Prescott, and is the energy and insight behind the Prescott Palette. Email: Prespalette@gmail.com.