“On yer bike!” Rickshaw-style bikes bring back cycling memories for residents at Bridgeside Lodge

A resident of the Bridgeside Lodge Care Centre in Islington has been the first in the country to try out a new scheme aiming to recreate the feeling of ‘wind in your hair’ for people who had assumed that their cycling days were long gone!

‘Cycling without Age’ is an initiative being imported from Denmark by Kalim Ahmed, in which volunteers offer free rides aboard rickshaw-style bicycles – but with the seats on the front – to people who are no longer able to cycle for themselves, whether due to injury, age or conditions like dementia. Emma Riordan, age 32 years, who lives at Bridgeside Lodge was the first to be taken on a ride around the streets of Islington on a bike lent to Kalim by the Danish group. She was closely followed by fellow-resident William Woods who used to be a very keen cyclist and was thrilled to be back on a bike.

“I’d heard of these bikes in use in Copenhagen, and approached the charity to see if anyone was operating this in the UK. When they heard about our interest, they lent us one of their bikes for a trial period to see how the British public would take to it, and judging from Emma’s reaction, it looks like it is a hit! We’re now looking for sponsors to help fund these bikes so that we can set up a similar volunteer-led scheme in this country – there are around 3000 volunteers and 400 bikes in use around Denmark, so if we can start a similar scheme in London, it would be fantastic to think that, like them, we could get up to a similar number within three or four years!” says Kalim.

Kalim made contact with Bridgeside Lodge through Rida Khan, a student at the University of London whose work with the elderly had featured in the local media. Rida set up the Senior Citizens Venture, a group of students who work with the elderly to have a positive impact on their lives. Senior Citizens Venture works in partnership with Bridgeside Lodge Care Centre, which sits alongside the Regents Canal in Islington.

Bridgeside Lodge’s manager, Fatma Makalo, is delighted to have been involved in the project: “One of our key aims as a care home is to build links with the local community, and to ensure that our residents enjoy a rich and fulfilling life, and this includes trying to recreate some of life’s basic pleasures that might not be immediately accessible to them. Everyone has the right to feel the wind blowing through their hair, and Emma loved being transported around the local area on the bike – it was like a trip down memory lane for her and when she recognised her old primary school and the sweet shop she started talking a lot about the things she did when she was growing up. Sitting on the seat at the front makes it more like a pleasure trip than a taxi ride, so we’d love to see this Cycling Without Age initiative really take off so that more people can experience the thrill!”

Each bike costs around £5000 to purchase and run for the year, so Kalim is seeking support from local and national companies to establish this community initiative. For more information, or to donate, please contact Kalim on 07568 083218 or email kalimis@gmail.com