Everyone should be able to enjoy biking and with the newly formed group Pedal Pals, everybody can.
With the partnership of Let Abilities Work and Active Pictou County, Lloyd McLean has piloted a project that has and will continue to benefit people of all abilities in the community and beyond.
The Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library helped with the name of the group as well as printing out fliers of information and the Pictou County Wellness Centre currently stores the tandem bikes free of charge. Pedal Pals is a true community effort with great reward as visitors young and old were excited to try the new-to-them activity.
“That was fun!” Jeanne McDonald exclaimed after her first ride as “stoker” with John Macmillan as “pilot”; the YMCA volunteer was excited to be included. Bob MacDonald, known locally for finishing the cross Canada tandem ride with Lloyd McLean when Craig Aucoin was injured, was present to help promote the activity to anyone wanting to try.
Completely offered through volunteer efforts, Pedal Pals is looking to compile a list of those who are interested in training to be a pilot. The pilot of the tandem bike controls the bicycle for the ride while the stoker contributes power through pedaling and feels the freedom of being able to enjoy an activity they may usually be restricted from.
Aucoin, born with retinitis pigmentosa, felt the effects when he lost complete use of his eyes before turning 20. As an athlete, it took time before he realized he did not need to be restricted by his disease if he had the help of friends.
“All about freedom,” Aucoin says of the opportunities he has been provided through sports and volunteers who have trained him to run marathons, bike and swim, much like he remembers.
Inspired by a group in Montreal called Montreal On Wheels/Ca Roule Montreal who joined their cross Canada journey for about 50 kilometers, MacLean was impressed with their eight bikes available and the number of participants. With two tandem bikes now, one being a recumbent — meaning the stoker rides backwards but pedals the same — the group intends to expand to include hiking and snowshoeing as weather permits.
“Between the volunteers and participants you make friends that last a lifetime,” MacLean said about his effort over six years to get this started.
The bikes can be borrowed through the Pictou County Wellness Centre or by contacting Julie Martin through the Let Abilities Work Partnership Society. To volunteer for this does not take a big commitment but will offer a big reward, Martin says.