Cycling Without Age, an initiative that bridges issues related to mobility, social cohesion and aging populations combats issues of loneliness and limited mobility, bringing happiness to different cities around the world. It was started by Ole Kassow in Copenhagen who noticed an elderly man sitting outside with his walker on his daily commute by bike. Ole would become great friends with this man, Takil as they would ride together through Copenhagen embarking upon the beginnings of Cycling Without Age.
This story and the relationship that grew out of their bicycle ride together stands as a testament to the five guiding principles that have shaped Cycling Without Age; generosity, slowness, storytelling, relationships, without age. Now with global chapters from Singapore to Oslo to Los Angeles, Cycling Without Age started as a small initiative in Copenhagen in 2012 after Ole went to an elderly home and asked if anyone wanted to go out for a ride. He knew he was onto something after the positive feedback started overflowing from the smiles to the reports from employees at the elderly home that those who had gone out on a ride hadn’t talked this much in ages. They were regaining their mobility and (re)establishing connections with their city, fellow rider, and their volunteer pilot. With these positive results, Ole wrote a letter to the City of Copenhagen in the hopes that funds could be arranged to secure a permanent rickshaw for the elderly home. Luckily, the letter found Dorthe Pedersen, and five bikes were subsequently purchased and placed at five different nursing homes. The movement snowballed from there after photos kept popping up on social media and Ole gave a talk at a conference for politicians and social servants involved in elderly care. In fact, the bike manufacturer could not keep up with the demand for these bikes.
Today, Cycling Without Age has expanded globally. Growing CWA outside of Denmark, there are no major requirements except that participating chapters follow the core principles of the organisation and participate in knowledge creation and sharing. According to Ole, the network created by experiences of people involved with CWA is “like building Wikipedia where a lot of people have specific information, but nobody has all of the answers. Some people have some of the answers and when you put it all together you get the big picture.” This has led people to engage in knowledge co-creation and sharing, using online as well as offline platforms.
One of the main challenges that has come up in other cities has to do with the actual cycling itself. Ole described that outside of Denmark and the Netherlands, cycling can be a bit daunting, especially when you are responsible for two elderly people and you aren’t used to riding a bike everyday.
“In cities around the world where you wouldn’t think that it is possible to ride a rickshaw with elderly people, we find that you can do it and it actually puts a human face on cycling.”
In this way, he sees the initiative as a tool that can help normalize cycling in other cities and countries where riding a bike isn’t an everyday form or transportation and that Cycling Without Age can help to change the image of what a cyclist looks like.