An innovative program launched by the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce aims to get seniors outdoors and active—on e-bikes.
The chamber launched the Bike SEAT program at McLean Mill National Historic Site this month: SEAT standing for socialize, exercise, adventure and technology. A federal New Horizons Grant for seniors covered the purchase of six e-bikes from Healthy Habits (one is still on order, as cycling has become a popular pastime during COVID-19 shelter-in-place restrictions).
Many of the rides will take place on the trails around McLean Mill, but not exclusively, chamber CEO Bill Collette said.
Three Port Alberni citizens of the year—Nancy Wilmot, Dewayne Parfitt and Jeff Cook—as well as Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns joined program coordinator Jessica Aebig on an introductory ride around McLean Mill National Historic Site on April 16.
Former mayor John Douglas, who developed the city’s active transportation plan when he was in office and who also rides an e-bike, was invited to ride along and talk about his experiences riding around Port Alberni. Douglas helped create the city’s active transportation plan while in office.
“I’m really excited to see New Horizons for Seniors money land here in the Alberni Valley. It will help seniors get mobile through the Bike SEAT program,” said Gord Johns, riding his first e-bike.
“For a lot of seniors, this is going to allow them accessibility to get out on the trails here at the mill and the surrounding area,” he said. “They are really beautiful trails and they are important to the active transportation plan in the Alberni Valley.”
Collette gave Anita Sutherland, retail operator at the McLean Mill store, credit for coming up with the Bike SEAT acronym. He and Sutherland talked about what kind of program they could create that would benefit from a New Horizons grant.
“I said to Anita we’ve got to do something for seniors, we’ve got to be creative. I’d love to see them out in the area somehow, some way. We talked about bikes,” he said.
“She came up with the SEAT acronym, and that’s really what did it. That allowed us to really develop the application around that.”
Collette said socialization—giving seniors something to do in a socially distanced manner, while being active and outdoors—was the crucial part of their application for grant funding. He would like to see the program develop to where a bike ride and “tech talk” can be combined.
The e-bikes give a boost to cyclists with an electric motor that takes over when the going gets tough. Cook said going up hills on the trail ride, the boost “helped a lot.”
Parfitt said he noticed a difference with the e-bike assist. “I didn’t have to overwork my body, I could work with it—the bike basically did all the heavy work.
“I was impressed,” he added. “I would do it again.”
The Bike SEAT program is ready to accept rider registrations. Strict COVID-19 protocols are in effect, which includes sanitizing the bicycles between uses. E-mail email@example.com to book a spot.