SEQUIM — Sequim is peddling its way to becoming one of the first cities in the U.S. to have a wheelchair bike program in its backyard.
The Sequim Wheelers’ program, a nonprofit started in November by bicycle enthusiast Nicole Lepping — a Sequim resident and regular bicyclist on Olympic Discovery Trail — is to the best of her knowledge, the first program of its kind in Washington state and fifth in the nation.
“I saw a wheelchair bike video of the Healing Rides program in Illinois,” on the Olympic Discovery Trail website, “and I was instantly inspired to start this program for our community,” she said.
“I thought it will be a great addition for our elderly and disabled community members in Sequim and Port Angeles.
“I find it invigorating to be outdoors,” Lepping said. “I can envision this [feeling] for everybody.”
Four other wheelchair bike programs are in the U.S., including Joy 2 Ride (Michigan), Healing Rides (Illinois), Port Wheelers (Maine) and Nantucket Wheelers (Massachusetts), according to Lepping.
If other adaptive bicycle groups are on the Olympic Peninsula, she invites them to contact the Sequim Wheelers.
Lepping’s goal for the Sequim Wheelers is to provide a service to the community by having trained volunteers give free bike rides on Olympic Discovery Trail to disabled or elderly adults or children.
“The main goal is to provide a bike ride and therefore a quality time in the outdoors on our beautiful Olympic Peninsula.”
The group hopes to raise $11,000, which is $8,500 for a wheelchair bike with electric and pedal-assist features and about $2,500 for liability coverage/insurance.
If enough funds are raised, two wheelchair bikes might be purchased.
The bike is safe for guests and has passed U.S. and Canadian government regulations for safety testing, she said.
Lepping plans to launch the program in May or June. It would continue through September or October, weather permitting.
“The Bike Chair is designed to let someone else do the pedaling while the guest enjoys the view,” Sequim Wheelers website says.
“Our goal is to help others to get out on the Discovery Trail for a little fresh air and sunshine.”
So far, Lepping has received $3,400 in grants and donations from community members such as 1st Security Bank, local bike shops and private donations.
Once she is able to buy the bikes, Lepping will recruit trained volunteers to take guests on the trail. They will have background checks and be required to log a certain amount of hours riding the wheelchair bike before they give rides to guests.
“We want to provide a service to people who can’t ride a bike themselves and whoever thinks it looks like fun,” Lepping said.
“Even if we just make 50 people happy that’s a goal worth while.”
Lepping said the rides will be limited to Olympic Discovery Trail because it’s the safest place for volunteers and guests.
Sequim Wheelers are seeking a storage area close to the Olympic Discovery Trail for the wheelchair bike. Lepping asks that any with storage space or suggestions about storage contact her.
Lepping will bring news of her project to the Sequim Multiple Sclerosis Self Help Group at 2 p.m. Tuesday, when the group meets at the Olympic Medical Center on Fifth Avenue. In March, she plans to speak to the Olympic Kiwanis in Port Angeles and the Lions Club in Port Angeles.
To make a donation or learn more about the program, visit https://www.sequimwheelers.com/ or the program’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Sequimwheelers. Checks can be sent to Sequim Wheelers at P.O. Box 276, Carlsborg, WA, 98324. For updates on the program, Lepping said to check its Facebook page.
For questions, inquiries about becoming a trained volunteer or other information, contact Lepping at 360-591-3200 or email at [email protected]
Erin Hawkins is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at [email protected].
Peninsula Daily News Executive Editor Leah Leach added to this story.