An innovative scheme which helps older people is to be rolled out across Scotland after the Falkirk pilot proved a massive success.
Cycling Without Age is a movement which began in Denmark, but was adopted by Falkirk charity Communities Along The Carron (CATCA) organiser Fraser Johnston, from Larbert, who witnessed it in action on a trip there.
The scheme sees 20-year-old Fraser pedal a trishaw with older passengers from local care homes or individuals who struggle to get out of their own homes.
It gives older people social and health benefits and allows younger people to interact with older generations and an online BBC video about the scheme went viral with more than 26 million views.
Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman visited the project – which is benefitting from funding of £36,000 from the Scottish Government and European Social Fund – to pledge additional support for similar projects across Scotland.
Fraser said: “Within Scotland we’ve had huge enthusiasm from a vast number of care homes, a huge surge in the number of volunteers interested in being involved, and a lot of individuals around the country wanting to do what we have done here in Falkirk and start their own chapters to give more elderly residents the right to get out and get the wind in their hair.”
Ms Freeman said: “We’re already providing some financial support for the scheme here in Falkirk and we want to see this great initiative spread nationwide.
“This is a great example of a community project – built on the hard work of volunteers and generous donations from individuals and companies. We’d like to see that continue but we’re determined to play our part in helping Cycling Without Age step up a gear here in Scotland.”
Fraser is happy the Scottish Government is now investing in the scheme.
He added: “Our work as a community group – CATCA – has been working since 2010 across the 16 of our Carron communities, mainly with younger people and we came across this project last year which gave us the chance to work with the older generation and get them out and see all the work we’ve done by bike
“We’ve got care homes across the district and beyond interested in being part of Cycling Without Age because it gives the residents the opportunities they wouldn’t normally get otherwise.
“This is the first government in the world to give its backing to a nationwide rollout of Cycling Without Age. I am looking forward to working with the Scottish Government to develop the blueprint in the months ahead.”
Both Falkirk MSPs Angus Macdonald and Michael Matheson are also supporting Fraser and the scheme.
Mr MacDonald said: “It has been great to see Cycling Without Age go from strength to strength over these past few months, and it is down to the hard work and dedication of Fraser and his project partner Christine Bell, that this latest success has come.”
Mr Matheson said: “I’ve been following the growth of Cycling Without Age with great interest since Angus and I had the privilege to help launch the project at Carrondale Care Home in March – and its rapid expansion is all thanks to Fraser and Christine’s boundless enthusiasm, which is truly inspirational.
“The difference this project has made to the lives of nursing home residents in Falkirk is obvious to anyone who has seen the trishaws in action – as well as to the millions who watched the BBC Three video – so it’s fantastic news that this initiative is being rolled out nationwide thanks to financial backing from the Scottish Government.”