SEQUIM — The Sequim Wheelers are getting its wheels rolling.
The nonprofit organization started giving free wheelchair bike rides to Sequim community members along Olympic Discovery Trail at the beginning of the month and board president and founder Nicole Lepping said volunteers are providing about 15 rides each week.
“Everyone is enjoying it: the [clients] and the pilots,” Lepping said. “Besides providing a free wheelchair bike ride, we’re building an inclusive community where cycling is for all.”
The Wheelers purchased its first wheelchair bike in April along with insurance and have trained volunteers throughout the past several months.
The nonprofit is working regularly with several facilities in Sequim such as Dungeness Courte Memory Care, Sequim Health & Rehabilitation Center and Fifth Avenue Senior Living. It also has provided rides for individuals and other interested groups, such as Clallam Mosaic.
As part of its annual field trip to Railroad Bridge Park and the Dungeness River Audubon Center, five participants from Clallam Mosaic received rides from Sequim Wheelers’ volunteers July 13. The wheelchair bike is stored at the Dungeness River Audubon Center where clients meet the Wheelers and free rides start.
Catherine McKinney, Clallam Mosaic program coordinator, said the five members who received rides from Wheelers’ volunteers enjoyed it.
“It was incredible,” McKinney said. “Three volunteers showed up in two days notice for our participants.”
McKinney said a few of the participants were nervous about trying out the bike but by the end of the ride McKinney said she witnessed a lot of enthusiasm among riders.
One of the participants was McKinney’s sister, Beth Walker, who is not able to ride a bicycle alone.
“She has an uneven gait and uses a small leg brace so she wouldn’t be able to balance on a bicycle,” McKinney said. “She would never be able to ride by herself.”
McKinney said it has been decades since her sister has been on a bike and has tried three-wheeler bikes before which also were difficult for her to use. McKinney and her family are avid cyclists, she said, and it was a fun opportunity to see her sister also share this experience. She said her sister really enjoyed the bike ride and wants to do it again.
“Within the community of Clallam Mosaic, most of our participants have not had the experience of cycling, nor even the opportunity to try modified, adaptive bicycles,” McKinney said.
“The Sequim Wheelers have created a broader life experience, an inclusive outdoor experience, which is a very visible activity in this area. And they do so without charging a fee.”
She said she hopes to incorporate the Wheelers’ rides as a part of Clallam Mosaic’s annual field trip every year, if not sooner.
How the rides work
McKinney said three Wheelers’ volunteers participated in each ride: the pilot pedaling the wheelchair bike and two safety persons riding in the front and the back of the bike. Lepping said each ride will consist of at least one pilot and one safety riding ahead to scout out any difficult terrain.
It was an easy transition for Clallam Mosaic participants to get in and out of the bike, McKinney said, as the wheelchair part of the bike is able to be removed off the bicycle and put back on. McKinney said the volunteers were well trained in helping clients get onto and off the bike.
“The riders are loving it and it’s a pleasure to serve these see people and see the joy they get out of it,” said Paul Muncey, Wheelers board vice-president and volunteer.
Those interested in becoming trained volunteers or signing up for rides can email [email protected] or call Muncey at 206-817-5634.
The Wheelers also are trying to purchase a second wheelchair bike to give more rides in the future and those interested in supporting the nonprofit can donate at its gofundme page https://www.gofundme.com/pygm98-sequim-wheelers-wheelchair-bikes or mail donations to P.O. Box 276, Carlsborg, 98324.
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].