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Portland nonprofit offers bike rides to people who can't ride by themselves

Portland Wheelers use adapted tricycles to offer bike rides in the greater Portland area for those who can’t ride a bicycle themselves.

PORTLAND, Maine — Portland Wheelers is a volunteer-led nonprofit organization whose mission is to offer outdoor adapted biking fun.

The organization was founded in 2015 and uses adapted tricycles to offer rides to people who cannot ride a bike themselves.

The tricycles are designed to hold two people; a "pilot" and a "wheeler."

“They hold somebody in the front where there [are] two wheels, so it’s a seat that can actually be turned into a wheelchair by just disconnecting it. Then we have the pilot. That’s us pedaling in the back. So, the pilots are pedaling the wheeler. The wheelers are out front, which is a really magical experience for them, so they’re not looking at our backs or anything.” Karen Schilling, the president of Portland Wheelers, said. 

The organization offers rides in the morning and afternoon, six days a week, from May to September.

“We go to congregate living locations all over greater Portland from Gorham to Scarborough up to Yarmouth.” Mark Sundermann, vice president of the Portland Wheelers, said. 

“We got over 27 locations today. We do it six days a week for six months of the year. We have a 22-week season. We will give over 2000 bike rides this summer to people who couldn’t otherwise get outside.” Sundermann said.

Portland Wheelers make it a priority to give a great experience for any wheeler that wishes to take a ride with them. The tricycles are electric to offer smoother rides. And for each group ride, there’s a safety rider whose job is to make sure the group is safe on the roads.

All the work to make sure the experience offers what the Portland Wheelers call "Miles of Smiles.”

“I think it really is the reaction of the people in the front. The wheeler [is] thrilled they can get out of where they’re living on a day like today. The breeze blowing and just being a part of that enjoyment for them gives us a lot of enjoyment.” Schilling said.

“I enjoy it. I’m glad they kindly let me know they’re coming because I would not want to miss this,” Ruth, a resident at Bayview Heights in Portland, said. 

Andrea Cooper, the resident service coordinator at Bayview Heights, has been working with Portland Wheelers since May 2022 to offer residents bike rides around Portland’s East End.

“It’s been fabulous having them offer rides to the residents. They’ve been loving it, and they’re super great to work with," Cooper said.

“I can’t wait. I wish it was every Friday. I can’t wait to do it.” Jackie, a resident at Bayview Heights, said. “I’m relaxing. I’m taking in everything, and people are waving to us. And they give us a thumbs up. It’s really enjoyable.”

Anyone who would like to learn more about the Portland Wheelers can visit its website.

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