Sequim resident Nicole Lepping is in the process of starting a wheelchair bike program called Sequim Wheelers that aims to provide a service of giving free bike rides to elderly and persons with disabilities, so they may be able to get out into the fresh air and sunshine. Sequim Gazette photo by Erin Hawkins

Sequim resident Nicole Lepping is in the process of starting a wheelchair bike program called Sequim Wheelers that aims to provide a service of giving free bike rides to elderly and persons with disabilities, so they may be able to get out into the fresh air and sunshine. Sequim Gazette photo by Erin Hawkins

Making the outdoors more accessible

Sequim is peddling its way to becoming one of the first cities in the U.S. to have a wheelchair bike program in its backyard.

The Sequim Wheelers, a nonprofit started last November by local bicycle enthusiast Nicole Lepping said it’s the first program of its kind in Washington state and fifth in the nation.

“I felt like we have a lot of retirees in Sequim and that it would be a great addition to our community,” Lepping said.

“I personally like to bike so it was easy to get excited about this program.”

Lepping, a Sequim resident and regular bicyclist on Olympic Discovery Trail, said she found the inspiration to start this program after watching a video about Healing Rides, a wheelchair bike program based out of Illinois, on the Olympic Discovery Trail website.

“I find it invigorating to be outdoors,” Lepping said. “I can envision this (feeling) for everybody.”

There are four other wheelchair bike programs in the U.S., including Joy 2 Ride (Michigan), Healing Rides (Illinois), Port Wheelers (Maine) and Nantucket Wheelers (Massachusetts), according to Lepping.

Lepping’s goal for the Sequim Wheelers is to provide a service to the community by having trained volunteers give free bike rides on Olympic Discovery Trail to disabled or elderly people or children.

“The main goal is to provide not just a bike ride but also fun for 1-2 hours and just enjoy the outdoors,” she said.

She is looking to get enough funds and donations to buy two wheelchair bikes for her program. Each wheelchair bike costs $8,500 with electric and pedal-assist features. The bike is safe for guests and has passed U.S. and Canadian government regulations for safety testing.

Lepping plans to launch the program tentatively this May and it will continue through September or October with weather permitting.

“The Bike Chair is designed to let someone else do the pedaling while the guest enjoys the view,” the Sequim Wheelers website says.

“Our goal is to help others to get out on the Discovery Trail for a little fresh air and sunshine.”

So far, Lepping has received $1,650 in grants and donations from community members such as 1st Security Bank, local bike shops and private donations.

Once she is able to buy the bikes, Lepping plans to store them at an assisted living facility near Olympic Discovery Trail and recruit trained volunteers to take guests on the trail for one-and-a-half to two hours.

“We want to provide a service to people who can’t ride a bike themselves and whoever thinks it looks like fun,” Lepping said.

“Even if we just make 50 people happy that’s a goal worth while.”

Trained volunteers will be given background checks and are required to log a certain amount of hours riding the wheelchair bike before they are able to give rides to guests.

Lepping said the rides are limited to Olympic Discovery Trail because its the safest place for volunteers and guests.

To make a donation or learn more about the program, visit https://www.sequimwheelers.com/ or the program’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Sequimwheelers/ or send a check to Sequim Wheelers at P.O. Box 276, Carlsborg, WA, 98324. For updates on the program, Lepping said to check its Facebook page.

For questions or inquiries about becoming a trained volunteer, contact Nicole Lepping at 360-591-3200 or email at Sequimwheelers@yahoo.com.

Reach Erin Hawkins at ehawkins@sequimgazette.com.

There are currently four other wheelchair bike programs in the U.S. making the Sequim Wheelers the fifth in the nation and the first in Washington state. Photo courtesy of Portland (Maine) Wheelers

There are currently four other wheelchair bike programs in the U.S. making the Sequim Wheelers the fifth in the nation and the first in Washington state. Photo courtesy of Portland (Maine) Wheelers

Photo courtesy of Healing Rides (Illinois)

Photo courtesy of Healing Rides (Illinois)

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