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From Denmark to Dane County: Clark Street Students Become Pilots for Cycling Without Age


The right to wind in your hair.

Sometimes it's that simple. And that fun.

And there's no one who understands and exemplifies this better than Ole Kassow, Founder, of the Denmark-based organization, Cycling Without Age - an international organization committed to ensuring that everyone can experience the joy of riding a bike, and feeling the wind in their hair, even when they're not the one pedaling.

Ole's now international organization grew from his want to take some seniors out for a bike ride. He himself loved riding and realized so many elderly Danes relied exclusively on bikes for transportation throughout their lifetime, yet likely didn't get out on bikes as they aged. As he details in his TED Talk, he borrowed a rickshaw, showed up at a local nursing home and offered to take residents for a ride... and they took him up on it.

And with that act of generosity, Kassow inspired a movement that has grown across Europe, Asia, Australia, and North and South America.

Last spring a group of students at Clark Street Community School had the honor of meeting with Mr. Kassow at the launch the Cycling Without Age program at Oakwood Village in Madison, WI.

As part of student-led seminar dedicated to understanding how bikes could be a simple solution to many world problems, CSCS students spent an entire semester riding bikes, learning basic bikes mechanics, exploring and touring a variety of bike enterprises, and initiating business plans for an early stage community-based bike shop anchored at the school.

But of everything they explored and reviewed, Ole offered them something tangible and immediate. Cycling Without Age gave them a clear way to make a contribution, connect with a generation they are often isolated from, get out on bikes, and have an authentic experience of how bikes can solve problems. "Hope and I were the first to get our names on the pilot list", tells CSCS student Harrison Braun, "we had no hesitation in signing up. We were disappointed the trishaws weren't there at the time. We would have started that day."

"It was astounding to see our students rushing to the back of the auditorium to sign up to volunteer. They were so inspired" explains Jim Grindrod, CSCS Educator. Corinne Neil, also a CSCS Educator, chimes in and agrees. "We had so hoped that the students would want to participate. It was so incredible to see them ask Ole questions, tell him about the school and our class, then eagerly sign up to train as future pilots."

This fall, led by Grindrod and the biggest student advocate of the program, Ted Wilson, a group of ten students attended several training sessions to get comfortable with the trishaws, and before the weather turned too cold, took their first rider, Madeline, out for an inaugural ride. And it was in this experience that they embraced Kassow's mission of generosity, storytelling, and bridging relationships by riding a bike slowly with people of different generations.

"Bikes really changed my life, so if I can help change someone's life with a bike, then I'm really in to that. Plus I love telling people about the program and recruiting new students to join in."

Not short on enthusiasm, Ted and his crew of Cycling Without Age pilots, have plans to help maintain the trishaws for the Oakwood Village community, and can see all sorts of academics they can roll into their experiences. As Braun explains, "While we're building relationships on our bike rides with the seniors, it will be so easy to write journals and narratives, complete photo essays, earn health and wellness credits, and connect with other programs at our school like the WI Music and Memory project."

"We so excited about this partnership with Oakwood Village and Cycling Without Age", says Grindrod, "it perfectly embodies what our community school is all about."

With ten trained pilots ready to jump on trishaws, spring can't come soon enough for these kids to get in the saddle and share the feeling of wind in your hair with the community at Oakwood Village.

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