SEQUIM — The Sequim Wheelers are readying to roll out for a second season.
Volunteers for the nonprofit revealed the group’s second adaptive bike during a volunteer training session on April 3 in the Dungeness River Audubon Center.
“We’re going to be busy this year,” said Paul Muncey, Sequim Wheelers board vice president.
Over 15 weeks last year, 21 volunteers, known as pilots, provided 90 free trips for local residents, called Wheelers, who aren’t able to ride bicycles on their own.
Rides last between 45 minutes and 60 minutes along the Olympic Discovery Trail.
Nicole Lepping, a former special education teacher who worked with mobility-challenged children, founded Sequim Wheelers after seeing a video on a wheelchair bike program in Illinois.
After much footwork and fundraising, she and a board of volunteers purchased the first adaptive bike last year and gave rides from July to mid-October.
This year, organizers hope to give rides for about four months starting in late April or early May, depending upon the weather.
“It’s instant gratification,” Muncey said. “I gave 30 rides myself last year. I loved it.”
Organizers said eight local agencies and multiple friends and family members of volunteers participated last year and even more are interested now.
“We see this as a contribution to building a more inclusive community,” said Lepping, who was nominated for the 2018 Sequim Citizen of the Year award.
“The trail is for everybody, even people who cannot cycle for themselves.”
More than 20 returning and new volunteers attended the training session earlier this month.
However, before they hit the Olympic Discovery Trail and provide rides, they’ll each have background checks performed and be required to log at least six hours of riding the bike, three on each bike, before providing rides.
Rides start from Railroad Bridge Park and are limited to the Olympic Discovery Trail in the Sequim area because it doesn’t have many hills, volunteers said.
“The goal is to give the Wheeler the smoothest ride possible,” board member Leilani Sundt said.
Pilots also will use the electric pedal-assist feature to help with any steeper sections.
Every ride will be accompanied by at least one Safety — another bicycle riding nearby.
Each Wheeler is required to have a waiver, Muncey said. They host a wide range of people from the mobility impaired to those with memory loss.
They’ve only had a few instances where people wanted to turn around, he said.
“The most popular phrase I heard was ‘go faster,’” Muncey said.
The newest adaptive bike, a 2019 Opair, cost about $8,500 Lepping said, and to date, Sequim Wheelers, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, has received about $30,000 from private and group donations, such as from the First Federal Community Foundation, Sequim Lavender Farmers Association, Olympic Peninsula Bicycle Alliance and the Sequim Sunrise Rotary.
Donations have helped cover expenses, such as insurance and maintenance.
The River Center was storing the first bike, a 2018 Duet, but a neighbor has offered to store the bicycles as they’ve outgrown the space.
Lepping said volunteers hope to raise enough by 2021 to purchase a side-by-side tandem bicycle to help people recovering from physical ailments.
“The idea is that they can pedal as they are able whether for a minute or two and then rest their feet on a bar,” she said.
Along with putting on the miles, volunteers plan to attend and participate in multiple events in the coming months.
Look for them riding in the Sequim Irrigation Festival’s Grand Parade on May 11.
Donations can be sent to “Sequim Wheelers, P.O. Box 276, Carlsborg, WA, 98324.”
For questions or inquiries, contact Sequim Wheelers at [email protected], 360-591-3200 or 206-817-5634.
Matthew Nash 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 him at [email protected].