The AARP Community Challenge has helped communities nationwide raise awareness about cycling as a mobility option for people of all ages — including, of course, older adults. Learn more below and click on the images to "visit" each community.
Newport, Rhode Island | Lebanon, New Hampshire
The Cycling Without Age program connects volunteer cyclists — called “pilots” — with elderly adults and people with mobility limitations for trishaw rides. Nonprofits throughout the world train and certify the pilots, provide the trishaws, and partner with senior centers and assisted living residences, among other facilities, to help noncyclists go for a ride. (Pilots and temporarily unhelmeted riders from two AARP Community Challenge grantees — Bike Newport and Friends of the Northern Rail Trail — are pictured.) Said one passenger: “I have got to say, wow! It’s incredibly enjoyable. Like a slow-moving amusement park ride through nature!”
More than 40 percent of the members of the Florence Christian Church are 55 or older. Many struggle with hunger and housing, so rely on the church’s food pantry and bathing facilities. Because several congregants use a bicycle as their primary form of transportation, an AARP Community Challenge grant was used to purchase and install a secure bike rack. Since most of the cyclists are getting by with a second-hand, often poorly functioning bike, grant funds were also used for a bike-fix-it station. (Click on the image to watch a video about the repair equipment.) A church member named Will, 61, who has been living outdoors for several years, depends on his bicycle to get from his camp to the church so he can shower and eat dinner at the mission. He used the fix-it station tools to attach a wagon to his bike for carrying his belongings.
A 55-plus recreational facility, the Heritage Senior Activity Center serves more than 500 older adults as part of its mission to reduce social isolation through education, meals, travel and fitness. An AARP Community Challenge grant was used to purchase 10 adult tricycles, as well as helmets, locks and baskets. Many of the center's clients (some of whom are shown here posing with or trying out the trikes) haven’t been on a bicycle in decades or never even learned to ride. Said one cyclist: “I can’t believe I am riding a bike again at 83! I never thought this was something I could do anymore. I almost feel like a kid again!"
Greenville, North Carolina
Older adults represent a disproportionate share of bicyclists and pedestrians in roadway crashes, so BikeWalkNC used its AARP Community Challenge grant to create a “traffic garden,” which is a simulated street layout, created with paint and signage, to help pedestrians, cyclists and even motorists learn safety practices in a protected environment. “This is a traffic garden where parents, teachers, law enforcement officers, organizations — anyone — can come out and learn,” says Steven Hardy-Braz, vice president of BikeWalkNC.
Greenville, South Carolina
Four out of 10 households in the Greenville area do not have a vehicle and the local public transportation is limited. Village Wrench (commonly referred to as VW) is a bicycle shop that provides free repairs. According to its mechanics, many of the repairs they do could be performed by bike owners themselves if they have the right tools, a space to work in and some instruction. An AARP Community Challenge grant was used to add six "community work benches" to the VW repair space. Each bench is outfitted with a bike stand, a tablet containing bike repair videos, and tools that were purposely selected for use by older hands, such as those with arthritis. VW reports that one of its clients, a man named Chris, was homeless and jobless, in part due to his lack of transportation. After securing a bicycle by doing community service work through VW's Earn a Bike program, Chris landed a job. He uses the repair benches to maintain his bike, which he uses for traveling to and from work.
Houston, Texas | Pensacola, Florida | Macon, Georgia
“Pop-up” events along the Gonzalez Street Shareway in Pensacola and Westward Street in Houston allowed more than 1,000 participants to experience protected walk-bike routes, socialize with neighbors, visit with food and retail vendors, and provide feedback about the kinds of traffic safety enhancements they would like added to their community. (Watch a video about the Houston gathering.) In Macon, three “Open Streets” events closed roadways to motorists and opened them to more than 2,000 pedestrians and bicyclists. The activities were funded in part by AARP Community Challenge grants and the locations were selected to highlight newly installed street murals, artistic crosswalks, and traffic calming initiatives.
In addition to a safe, comfortable and convenient way to get from point A to point B, cyclists need a safe, secure and reliable place to lock their bike once they arrive at a destination. Short-term bike parking is important for shoppers, diners and visitors. Long-term bike parking is crucial for employees, tenants and anyone spending more than a few hours at a destination. The AARP Community Challenge has funded several hundred (often whimsical) bike racks.
Page published October 2023