With the summer months fast approaching, Loudoun’s elderly and physically disabled could soon have the chance to once again feel the wind in their hair and the sun on their faces as they cycle around town.
Hillsboro resident and cycling enthusiast James Hodges, 67, recently came up with the idea to bring this kind of joy back to those who are confined to assisted living centers. His goal is to create a local Cycling Without Age program, which picks up elderly people from nursing homes and takes them for recreational rides around town on a specially designed rickshaw. Started in Denmark in 2012, the program has more than 1,000 chapters in 38 countries, with more than 10,000 volunteers who pilot the rickshaws.
“I looked at that and I went, ‘oh my gosh,’” Hodges said. “This would give me an opportunity maybe to help someone else.”
As an avid cyclist for as long as he can remember, Hodges has completed numerous long-distance treks in many different countries, including multiple trips from Canada to Mexico, on the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail in Alaska and on the 150-mile Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, which reaches an elevation of nearly 18,000 feet and stretches across dangerous terrain in the Himalayas.
Perhaps most notably, he cycled from the Equator in South America to the southern tip of the continent in Ushuaia, Argentina—a 7,000-mile trip that took him through five countries over four-and-a-half months.
Hodges’ plan is to share his passion of cycling with anyone who welcomes it. Already, several senior hubs in the county have shown some interest in the program, including Purcellville’s Carver Center.
The next step, however, is the most difficult one to accomplish—getting $9,000 to purchase a rickshaw. Hodges solicited the help of fellow cyclist James Rollins, a Round Hill resident and former BMX racer. “It’s not a one-man show by any means,” Hodges said.
The two set up a YouCaring page to raise funds for the rickshaw purchase. So far, they’ve received only about $600 of their overall $10,000 goal. Until they can find the money, the duo is forced to play a waiting game. “If you don’t have any cash, it’s hard to get [a rickshaw],” Rollins said.
Once they have a rickshaw, Rollins said the program would most likely operate once a week for several hours, traveling to and from participating nursing homes and assisted living centers to give elderly people rides at no cost to them or their places of residence.
“It’s more just to really get them out,” Hodges said. “It’s a pretty simple concept.”
To make a donation, visit Loudoun’s Cycling Without Age YouCaring page.