Five ladies from Colony Pointe Senior Living were in for a treat Friday morning: a bike ride between Stadium and Forum boulevards on the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail, an outdoor alternative to 11 a.m exercise, card games or bingo.
Wanda Hoffman, Colony Pointe’s lifestyle coordinator, said the residents of the assisted living center stay busy. They do community service projects and take occasional field trips.
PedNet, a nonprofit focused on accessible public transportation for all, reached out to nursing homes in Columbia a couple of years ago about its Giving Rides program. PedNet volunteers pilot a hybrid wheelchair-tandem bike contraption while the senior residents ride along. Hoffman said Colony Pointe took immediate interest.
Thursday, Hoffman drove Gladys Wulff, Flora Toalson, Marcella Martin, Joan Sanford and Shirley Taylor in the Colony Pointe van to the trailhead at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at Battle Garden and helped them unload with their walkers and wheelchairs.
It was a slow and steady process that ended with the ladies looking for a bench to rest on. But once they hit the trail, they were moving fast — returning to the group with windblown curls.
PedNet has been “giving rides” for about a year and a half. Members meet groups from assisted living homes on the trail or at the nursing homes so residents with mobility issues can go for a ride.
Friday’s PedNet peddlers were Heather Marriott, PedNet’s community engagement coordinator; Megan Sherman, a PedNet intern and MU nursing major; and Veronica Fritz, an MU student who is volunteering with PedNet this summer.
Shirley Taylor, one of the Colony Pointe residents, had ridden with PedNet once before and was the brave first rider. Sherman, Fritz and Marriott helped Taylor buckle into the bike’s yellow chair and then tilted her back for takeoff.
“It was just something that you don’t get to do every day,” Taylor said. “The scenery was lovely.”
Each of the five ladies got a turn to ride on the trail, under the shade of the tall trees.
The bike rides are typically about 5 miles, but today they were about a mile shorter to make time for all the riders.
Marcella Martin, the second to ride, loved the natural setting. She said she wants to ride again in the fall when the trees turn colors.
Marriott said hearing from the riders is one of her favorite parts of the program.
“I really enjoy the social aspect,” she said.
She chats with the riders and warns them about any bumps or bridges ahead. Today, she pointed out Colony Pointe, which is visible from the trail, as she steered.
It’s nothing like steering a regular bike, Marriott said, and she would know. She rides her bike to work every day.
The special bike, called the Duet, is more top-heavy, so the cyclist has to stay upright instead of leaning into the turns.
The Duet has electric assistance to help with some of the added weight, and the thicker tires on the wheelchair portion allow for smooth riding on the trails.
The bike was designed in the Netherlands and costs around $9,500. Marriott said PedNet’s bike is a basic model. Amenities such as armrests and two footrests can be added but cost more.
Marriott said the rides are not limited to people living in nursing homes. Though PedNet presented the idea to nursing homes in the area, the rides are open — and free — to people young and old who may need assistance to enjoy the trail.