Silver Spokes for Senior Folks

“Our greatest joy is seeing community members who may not have been on a bike since they were young enjoying the freedom that cycling provides.”

Cheryl Burnette, Active Living Assistant Director City of Decatur, GA

As more and more community members become interested in cycling, the need existed for a way to encourage our Senior Citizens to get back on bikes; they need to have a level of confidence on the bike as well as the skills needed to navigate city streets and bike paths. The City of Decatur, GA, created a Silver Spokes program to fill the need.

The City applied for and received a $1,000 mini grant from the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association which helped purchase three adult tricycles for the pilot program. Partnering with Georgia Bikes! the program started to take shape. Nedra Deadwyler, the Education Coordinator for Georgia Bikes!, kicked off the classes with their staff. Staff members learned from her, and soon took over the class. To keep the program sustainable, the city sponsored two local cyclists to attend the League of American Bicyclists League Cycling Instructor (LCI) training program. These two cyclists are now teaching the Silver Spokes class.

The class meets once weekly during April and May and in the Fall during September and October. Classes teach a review of safe cycling skills before heading out on the trikes. The program started out with the very basic skills such as how to mount the bike, how to use the hand brakes, using hand signals, etc. Seniors had fun riding the trikes around the courtyard, and when they obtained the necessary skills, they took to the bike lanes and path to practice their skills. Helmet use is required; the city provides helmets for the class.

Having three bikes worked at the start of the program, as the seniors took turns riding. However, as they became stronger riders, the need for another bike became apparent so the city purchased a fourth bike.

The cost of the program is $20 or $25 per month (4 Thursdays in the month, $20; 5 is $25) and requires that participants register for the entire month. The class is limited in number of participants due to the number of trikes available, so pre-registration is important.

The city has seen some great successes with this program and a number of new cyclists have taken initiative to get a new bike of their own. There is a woman who participates to help herself rehabilitate after a stroke. The cycling helps her to regain muscle use and balance. This could not be accomplished on a two-wheel bike.

The greatest joy from this program is to see community members who may not have been on a bike since they were much younger gain the freedom that cycling gives. They enjoy the bike, moving along without much effort, and feel young and empowered.

The city purchased the adult tricycles for $499 each, so they have $2,000 invested in the program. Other costs are helmets, bike locks and ongoing maintenance when needed. The LCI’s are paid $15 an hour to teach the class, so it is easy to figure out that the city subsidizes the cost of the program. With the result of stronger and more con dent senior riders, so the cost is well worth it.