GRANT 176:

Portland Wheelers

01/18/2016

Outdoor biking fun for people living with disabilities.

Remember the exhilarating thrill of your first time on a bike? The wind in your hair, the sun in your face, the rush of adrenaline. In a way, it’s the closest thing to flying and everyone deserves to experience this simple life pleasure – regardless of age or physical ability. Doug Malcolm, a retired nurse, entrepreneur, hospice volunteer, and long-time resident of Portland, Maine had an idea. What if he could give the gift of bicycling – or tricycling – to people who, until now, could only dream about going for a ride? What if he could make it possible for those living with disability, debility, or dementia — old and young alike — to get outdoors, connect with the larger community, and have a whole lot of fun? The solution: Portland Wheelers, a nonprofit that takes members of the community (who cannot ride a bike by themselves) out for a ride.

They do this by using a specially made tricycle — two wheels forward, one wheel back. The “wheeler” sits up front enjoying an obstructed view, carried comfortably along urban trails and through quiet suburban neighborhoods. With electric-assist, the volunteer “pilots” can easily pedal for hours. So far, the group has given 150 rides and has covered over 1200 miles!

Their next goal? Developing a rental system for friends/family to join in on the fun. Therapeutic bike ride studies have shown that when rides are in groups, the sense of adventure and levels of serotonin naturally increase, resulting in a powerful drug-free intercession against isolation, depression, and more. If they can have regular rental bikes, of all sizes, ready to go when Grandma or little Billy head out on their wheelers, it would be a very memorable experience. AWB is proud to support this next program.

Check out Portland Wheelers website and Facebook page to keep up with the fun. Interested in supporting their efforts, too? Click here.