Cycling Without Age Extends The Joy Of Cycling To Everyone

Cycling Without Age (CWA) is an initiative started by Ole Kassow, a 49-year-old Danish social entrepreneur. CWA was started with the aim of giving elderly — who may find it difficult and inconvenient to move around — an opportunity to see the world beyond their living spaces.

Volunteers of the CWA bring the elderly around the neighbourhood in custom-built trishaws imported from Denmark.

This meaningful initiative finally reached the shores of our sunny island. Last week (6 July), local volunteers from CWA ferried elderly passengers from The Salvation Army and Thian Leng Old Folks’ Home for the first time.

Photo Credits: Pernille Bussone

MustShareNews caught up with Ms Pernille Bussone, the enthusiastic Singaporean representative of CWA to learn more about the initiative in Singapore and what she thinks about the cycling culture in here.

A Friend Inspired Her

Ms Bussone is a Denmark native who relocated to Singapore with her husband and her two kids last year.

She got to know about the CWA initiative from a friend, who is an ambassador of the cycling community in Singapore.

As a cycling enthusiast, Ms Bussone was inspired by the prospect of raising awareness on the benefits of cycling and of using cycling to inculcate a stronger communal bond between the people through the CWA initiative.

I was drawn to it [CWA] because with the means of just a bike I can bring awareness of the benefits of cycling, help the elderly to a more active life, and help to build stronger communities.
– Pernille Bussone
So she did basically what any passionate person would do: she contacted Ole Kassow, the founder of the CWA and brought the initiative into Singapore.

Photo Credits: Charles Tng

Postitive Reactions from Singaporeans

According to Ms Bussone, reactions from Singaporeans were positive and encouraging —  in fact, many Singaporeans were interested to know more about the CWA initiative.

General Public

Ms Bussone recalled that many Singaporeans and community centres were interested in participating and volunteering their services in the CWA initiative even before the trishaws arrived from Denmark.

When I tell people what I do, they usually want to know more.

– Pernille Bussone

The reaction from the general public’s reaction to the CWA initiative is described to be very heart-warming.

Drivers 

Singapore drivers have a reputation of being impatient and reckless — in fact there is a Facebook community about reckless drivers in Singapore, which features a hefty 83,000+ likes.

You’d be forgiven if you think the initiative is negatively received by the drivers of Singapore.

Especially with the trishaws sometimes riding on the road so closely to the cars.

Photo Credits: Charles Tng

But according to Ms Bussone, Singapore drivers were surprisingly courteous and considerate.

They [the drivers] give way when we [CWA] ride on the street, we’ve also been honked at, only to look at the driver and get a thumbs up!

– Pernille Bussone

Government Agencies also give thumbs up

Government Agencies were also open towards the CWA initiative.

The Singapore representative of CWA commented on the ease of communicating with government agencies such as the Land Transport Authority (LTA), National Parks (NParks), the Ministry of National Development (MND), and among others.

CWA also has the support from the Urban Redevelopment Agency (URA) as well as from the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

Photo Credits: Charles Tng

The Elderly

CWA’s main aim is to help the elderly live a more fulfilling life by exposing them to the environment and allowing them to experience the happiness of riding a bicycle.

The most important question is whether the elderly of Singapore is comfortable about being brought around in the trishaws.

Although Ms Bussone conceded that the project is still too young for any conclusion on whether the elderly is enjoying the experience, she asserts that participants were generally very comfortable about the initiative.

Some of them [elderly from community centres] even wanted to try riding the trishaw themselves after having been passengers. Most of them wanted more rides as soon as possible.

Many of the passengers talk about the joy of having the wind in their hair again. Some passengers have told me after a ride “I am so happy” which makes me tear up!

– Pernille Bussone

She added that elderly from the nursing home were less active and even though they seemed to enjoy the ride, she believes that it will take more visits to fully embrace the project.

It certainly seems that the elderly involved are happy to just have an excuse to be outside of their usual four walls.

Photo Credits: Charles Tng

The Trishaw used for the CWA

Ms Bussone admitted that while the cost of the trishaw is expensive — each trishaw costs SGD$6,000 — there are no future costs once the trishaw is procured.

The trishaws are imported from Denmark where the headquarters of CWA is located. Ms Bussone further explained that the trishaw is especially made for elderly use.

The trishaw is custom built for the elderly, it is easy to get into it without lifting your legs, the rider sits close to the passengers which facilitates communicating. The trishaw is also very easy to ride and at the same time safe and sturdy. I could go on about how much I love this trishaw!

– Pernille Bussone

Although the price of the trishaw is steep, the Singapore representative of CWA clarifies that the non-profit organisation will not compromise on the quality of the trishaw, when considering for cheaper alternatives.

Photo Credits: Charles Tng

Future Plans for CWA

Ms Bussone envisions the CWA to expand in Singapore, and have a trishaw at every Housing and Development Board (HDB) block together with a community of passengers and volunteer pilots for each vehicle.

The CWA in Singapore is working hard on the set-up of the organisation and funding of CWA in Singapore.

The Cycling Culture in Singapore

Ms Bussone opinionated that the cycling culture in Singapore is relatively low-profile, compared to the vibrant cycling culture in Copenhagen, Denmark.

 What I like about cycling in Copenhagen where I’m from is that it is for everybody, in Singapore it seems to be a sub culture for sports cyclists or construction workers, Cycling Without Age reminds us that cycling should be for everyone.

In Denmark, cycling is well established and the infrastructure supports it. In Copenhagen 6 out of 10 trips are made by bike. The situation in Singapore is almost the opposite. Here, cycling is seen as a recreational activity, a sort of hobby for sports enthusiasts.

– Pernille Bussone

Nonetheless, Ms Bussone believes that the CWA will be able to encourage more Singaporeans to hop on the bicycle as a sustainable form of commute around the island since the conditions are just right in Singapore.

When it comes to the weather, Singapore is made for cycling, yes it is hot, but when you ride a bike you are cooled down by the breeze. Those who don’t cycle often don’t believe it, but it’s true. Cycling feels cooler than walking because of the wind, you should try!

– Pernille Bussone

The Danish added that although cycling in Singapore is not as safe as cycling in a region like Europe where cycling is a popular form of commute, the risk of getting injured is insignificant compared to the happiness of the elderly derived from the CWA initiative.

There’s the fear of colliding with a car, we will ride where it is safe, the risk of any injuries that we may fear is minimal compared to loneliness and inactivity the elderly may experience when they are [being confined from the world outside].

– Pernille Bussone

Photo Credits: Charles Tng

Hopes for the cycling culture and for CWA to be popular in Singapore

Ending off the interview, Ms Bussone hopes that the Singapore will eventually embrace the cycling culture and participate in activities of CWA.

Singapore is the first coutry outside of Europe to start Cycling Without Age. I also like to say that we are not starting anything new, we’re just re-introducing trishaws to Singapore!

– Pernille Bussone

In fact, if you had cycled to and fro work yesterday, you would have probably not be affected by the massive Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) breakdown at all.

You could be this guy —


Source

Find out more and participate in the activities of Cycling Without Age – Singapore from their Facebook page!

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Featured Image via Charles Tng
With references from Channel News Asia, Pernille Bussone