Cycling Without Age Gives Seniors Access to Bikes, Community and Camaraderie

One of the perks of cycling is that it’s an activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. Many of us learn as children and continue well into late adulthood. But what about those who once loved to cycle, but now, because of age or mobility issues, no longer can?

John and Diane Ludwigsen hope to provide a solution for that demographic through Cycling Without Age. The international nonprofit organization – founded in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2012 by Ole Kassow – believes that everyone has “the right to wind in your hair” and helps seniors to experience just that through the use of piloted trishaws, which are light, three-wheeled cycles that are popular in communities in East Asia. 

“The trishaw is a specialized, electric-assist cargo bike,” Diane Ludwigsen said. 

The Ludwigsens recently launched an affiliate chapter in Door County and hope to begin offering free rides to residents of Scandia Village and members of the YMCA and Aging and Disability Resource Center beginning June 1.

“It all began with a simple meeting on a bike trail in Prairie du Sac,” Ludwigsen said. “My husband, John, passed a trishaw carrying two elderly passengers who were smiling and chatting.”

John inquired about the bike, pilot and passengers, and he learned they were part of a local Cycling Without Age chapter. That chance meeting was enough to spur John to learn even more about the program. 

“As he did, he became more and more convinced that a Door County chapter was a must,” Ludwigsen said.

Surprisingly, despite Wisconsin boasting more Cycling Without Age chapters than any other state in the country – and those 65 and older making up 30.5% of Door County’s total population, according to the 2020 U.S. census – Door County did not have a local chapter. 

“The uniqueness of this program and the fact that it is not offered anywhere else in the county was the draw for us,” Ludwigsen said. “The focus on well-being, mobility and helping people get outside to experience the beauty of our county are program goals that we strongly support.”

The program relies on volunteer “pilots” who sign up for bike rides as often or as seldom as they want. To date, more than 35,000 trained pilots around the world help the elderly leave their nursing homes or residences and get out on bikes to enjoy the fresh air and their communities. 

“The backbone of this program is its network of trained volunteer pilots,” Ludwigsen said.

The chapter currently has 11 pilots, but it hopes to have at least 25 by the time they launch. But before setting out with their first passengers, all pilots will undergo a three-hour training course offered by the Wisconsin Bike Federation on how to safely operate the trishaws.

The Ludwigsens are in the process of fundraising for two trishaws, with the first scheduled to arrive later this month. Each trishaw costs about $15,000 and comes with an extra battery and specially fitted blanket to keep passengers warm on brisk days. To pay for the bikes, the chapter is looking for individual donors and applying for Community Foundation grants.

Once the chapter receives both of its bikes and trains volunteers, its members will begin offering rides to those in continuous-care facilities, people recovering from surgery and anyone else experiencing barriers to mobility. 

“Our mission is to improve the lives of older adults and people with varying abilities by providing safe and slow trishaw rides,” Ludwigsen said. 

The rides, which are recreational in nature and free of charge, will follow designated routes in Peninsula State Park and along less-traveled roads in Northern Door, plus routes through Peterson Park and along the Ahnapee Trail in Sturgeon Bay. Sign up for rides, offered Monday-Friday, through the chapter’s website ( beginning June 1.