We Ride Bikes photo

Celi Taggart takes a couple ladies on a bike ride down one of Shelbyville’s trails. Taggart started We Ride Bikes, a nonprofit aimed at building connections through bike rides.

“We just want to love people with bikes.”

Shelbyville resident Celi Taggart started local nonprofit We Ride Bikes in 2019 after learning about the world-wide program Cycling Without Age.

“In 2019, I had been doing a lot of bike rides with my kids and really enjoying that time with them,” she said. “One day, I was watching a story on video of a woman who was working through tough life circumstances and my thought watching that was, ‘I want to take you on a bike ride. ... Let’s just take a break and enjoy the outdoors and enjoy each other and the movement of the bicycles and the fresh air and exercise.’”

“I talked to my husband and said ‘I want to get some bikes and take people out on free bike rides,’ and he was all into it,” she said. “Within a week, I found out about Cycling Without Age out of Indianapolis and immediately volunteered.”

Cycling Without Age is a worldwide program based in Denmark that focuses on providing rides to seniors using a trishaw – a three-wheeled bicycle with seats for two passengers.

“The bike is very important, the trishaw that we use,” she said. “First of all, it’s safe. Second of all, you have your rider in front of you, so the riders sit in front with seat belts, so there’s nothing coming between you and them and it’s like they’re riding the bike. The third thing is they’re positioned so the pilot can have easy conversations with them – which it is important to have those connections.”

When she first started giving rides in Indianapolis, it reminded Taggart of her grandparents.

“We showed up at a senior center and took people out on bike rides,” she said. “It reminded me of my grandparents as they lost their mobility, ... the fun of the interaction and the being together. The interaction part was amazing. I want to do that.

“I lived within a mile of both sets of my grandparents and had really close relationships with all of them,” she said. “They were all go getters and very active people, and they all lived into their 90s so their mobility suffered, for sure, and as I watched that, it was frustrating for me to see how they were limited and how they couldn’t get out as much as they wanted to. Looking at the bike thing, I was thinking I could have used this to get out with them and spend time with them, and share the idea of a bike ride. And I wanted to share it with other people.”

Taggart purchased a trishaw for We Ride Bikes last fall. This particular type of trishaw could only be purchased in Denmark.

“It’s attached to an electric-assist bike, which the advantage of that is you can have two adult passengers, and anyone who can ride a bike can theoretically be the pilot based on electric assist,” she said, meaning pilots don’t have to pedal completely by themselves.

The nonprofit was able to purchase the trishaw with sponsorships from The Bicycle Shop (now closed) and Builder’s Lumber, as well as a few grants from the Central Indiana Biking Association, the Blue River Community Foundation, and from a Racino grant.

“We’ve also had great support from private donors, which we appreciate,” Taggart said.

The bicycle’s passenger section has seat belts, padded seats and good suspension, making it “super comfortable,” she added.

But she wasn’t able to use it until the summer started because of COVID-19 precautions.

“Obviously COVID derailed everybody, but especially what we were trying to do,” Taggart said. “We really have just had to wait. Primarily our work starts with assisted living centers. For the Cycling Without Age program, we would have different centers on different days of the week. We’d take a couple rides out with residents, but that has been completely off the table.”

Taggart and other We Ride Bikes volunteers are taking seniors out now, little by little, as organizations begin to open back up.

“We don’t have any set schedule yet with the senior centers or other organizations, but we are ready for that when they are,” she said.

When they have a schedule, Taggart will post it on the We Ride Bikes Facebook page.

Anyone interested in scheduling a ride or volunteering with We Ride Bikes can do so by reaching out to Taggart at celi@weridebikes.org.

“If you want a ride, contact us and we’ll do what we can to make it happen,” she said. “We want requests to ride and we want volunteers. We have a great community – all these bike trails are being developed and we want to use them. For anybody who can’t get out there, we want to help them get out there.”

Volunteers do not need to own a bike to participate. Taggart’s fleet consists of eight bikes (including the trishaw), all named, which are available for borrow. Volunteers will most likely be escorts, riding their own bike in front of or behind the trishaw, which Taggart and her team members pilot.

“If someone wants to be a pilot, the first step is to be an escort, and we go from there,” she said. “There is training a pilot has to go through.”

We Ride Bikes also has a tandem trike that can be used for an adult who can pedal a bike but may not be able to balance one.

Taggart hopes the program will help build connections.

“The idea of being able to get together around the shared experience of a bike ride is just amazing,” Taggart said. “That’s the best part. When we’re on a bike ride, I get to share the wonder and beauty and awe of sharing that relationship.”