By Kelly Werthmann
LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Celebrating her birthday is something Barbara Miller has done many times before.
“56, that’s right,” she joked with friends and family outside Eaton Senior Communities in Lakewood Monday afternoon.
Miller is turning 86 years young and her grandson wanted to make this birthday extra special.
“Every time we’re in the car she never misses [pointing out] a bicyclist that goes by,” Sean Sanders said of his grandmother. “I thought it might be nice to get her back outside and out in the fresh air.
You see, Miller was once an avid cyclist. She pedaled many miles across several states, even parts of Germany.
“I’ve ridden Wyoming, Arizona, California, Maine and Vermont,” she said. “I did a lot of Ride the Rockies. You discover new things and see a lot more than people driving cars, flying down the road.”
But a few years ago, Miller had to put her bike away for good.
“Because I got so old,” she said with a laugh. “I couldn’t get my leg over the crossbar, so if anyone’s interested in a new bike… it’s only been ridden six times.”
Knowing how much his grandmother loved to ride and misses the feeling of being on a bike, Sanders wanted to give Miller an adventure she wouldn’t forget.
“She’ll bend over backwards to do anything for me, so I’m glad I could help and do the same for her,” Sanders told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann.
That’s where Cycling Without Age comes in. It’s a program with volunteer “pilots” who give seniors an experience they often miss due to mobility restraints.
“My wife and I are avid cyclists. This is a way we can continue to cycle and take people out who maybe can no longer cycle and used to ride,” Gary Harty, founder of the Lakewood Bicycle Advisory Team and lead of the Lakewood Cycling Without Age chapter, said.
Cycling Without Age got its start in Denmark, aimed at providing the three-wheeled cycles to people who can’t power a bike on their own. The special ride has a seat wide enough for two people in the front, and is operated by a cyclist who can use the electric motor to help them power the trishaw.
Now more than 30 countries have a Cycling Without Age program, and Lakewood is among the handful of chapters in Colorado.
“This is a dream come true,” Harty said.
It wasn’t an easy feat for Harty to bring the program to his community. Each trishaw costs $8,000 to build and ship from Europe. With the help of the Lakewood Bicycle Advisory Team and Eaton Senior Communities, they raised just enough money to buy their first trishaw.
Seniors quickly began to sign up for rides, so Harty quickly taught volunteers how to operate the specialty trikes.
“I think we as pilots get much more enriched than the folks that ride,” Barke Lotze, a volunteer pilot, said. “It really is truly a privilege to journey with people and be out in the outdoors, ride and talk to people. What could be better?”
Hundreds of seniors have enjoyed the free rides around the Lakewood community, Harty explained. The hope is to expand the program to other locations soon.
“There’s no shortage of seniors,” he said. “We have an aging population.”
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Harty said Littleton and Lafayette could start the rides up in the coming months. They’ll use pedal power to generate smiles much like the one that never left Miller’s face during her birthday ride.
“I just love being able to see this because it’s new territory to me,” Miller said, grinning ear to ear.
The Lakewood Bicycle Advisory Team and Eaton Senior Communities were among the eight recipients of Lakewood’s 2018 Sustainability Award. The award honors the launch of Cycling Without Age because of its creativity, passion and determination to create healthier communities and bring neighbors together.
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team as the morning reporter in 2012. After serving as weekend morning anchor, Kelly is now Covering Colorado First for CBS4 News at 10. Connect with Kelly on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @KellyCBS4.