The sight of elderly people enjoying the open air on a free bike tour could soon become a common sight in Scotland, after ministers decided to fund a national rollout of a pilot scheme.
The Cycling Without Age project has proved highly successful after being introduced in Falkirk, with a video clip of the idea in action generating huge amounts of interest online.
The scheme sees volunteer cyclists picking up elderly people from their houses or care homes and taking them out for a spin on a trishaw, a three-wheeled vehicle used in some countries as taxis.
The Falkirk project has been up and running since March with a team of around 30 people, but achieved global fame last month after being featured on the BBC3 series Amazing Humans.
A clip of the project, showing 20-year-old volunteer Fraser Johnston taking local care home resident Mary Duncan for a bike ride, was viewed more than 20 million times in five days.
The pilot scheme was initially given £36,000 by the Scottish Government and the EU’s European Social Fund, but ministers have now decided to increase the funding to allow the project to be rolled out nationally.
It is the first time that the Cycling Without Age concept, which began in Denmark in 2012, has been extended to cover an entire country.
“It’s easy to see why the video featuring Fraser and his enthusiastic passengers has become a world-wide hit on social media – this is a terrific project,” said Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman.
“I’m delighted to announce that the Scottish Government will now work with Cycling Without Age to ensure older people right across Scotland can experience nature and feel the wind in their hair.
“We’re already providing some financial support for the scheme here in Falkirk and we want to see this great initiative spread nationwide.”
She added that while there was “a lot of work to do” on the detail of the scheme, the Scottish Government would provide financial support allowing elderly people across the country to benefit from similar projects.
Mr Johnston said the scheme had gone from “strength to strength” since it started in Falkirk, adding that he was “delighted” it was to become a national project.
In the BBC video, the medical student said getting on a trishaw was an ideal way for elderly people who are otherwise stuck at home to get out and about. One of the project’s beneficiaries is 93.
“The only time they ever get taken out is with their family or through activities at the home, but it’s normally from the home to a car to a bus to the next location,” he said.
“For some of them it’s such a strange thing when you say ‘Come out on the bike’, because they think they’re going to do the pedalling. But when they find out it’s a young or old volunteer taking them out, they jump at the chance.”