Nicole Lepping, founder and president of Sequim Wheelers, reveals the second new bike, the 2019 Opair adaptive wheelchair bicycle, on left, to volunteers on April 3 in the Dungeness River Audubon Center. Last year, volunteers gave 90 rides in 15 weeks on the 2018 Duet bike, on right. This year, volunteers plan up to four months of free rides for those unable to ride a bicycle. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Nicole Lepping, founder and president of Sequim Wheelers, reveals the second new bike, the 2019 Opair adaptive wheelchair bicycle, on left, to volunteers on April 3 in the Dungeness River Audubon Center. Last year, volunteers gave 90 rides in 15 weeks on the 2018 Duet bike, on right. This year, volunteers plan up to four months of free rides for those unable to ride a bicycle. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Sequim Wheelers set second season of free rides

The Sequim Wheelers are readying to roll out for a second season.

Volunteers for the nonprofit revealed the group’s second adaptive bike during a volunteer training session on April 3 in the Dungeness River Audubon Center.

“We’re going to be busy this year,” said Paul Muncey, Sequim Wheelers board vice president.

Over 15 weeks last year, 21 volunteers, or Pilots, provided 90 free trips for local residents, called Wheelers, who aren’t able to ride a bicycle on their own. Rides last 45-60 minutes along the Olympic Discovery Trail.

Nicole Lepping, a former special education teacher who worked with mobility-challenged children, founded Sequim Wheelers after seeing a video on a wheelchair bike program in Illinois.

After much footwork and fundraising, she and a board of volunteers purchased the first adaptive bike last year and gave rides from July to mid-October.

This year, organizers hope to give rides for about four months depending on weather starting in late April or early May.

“It’s instant gratification,” Muncey said. “I gave 30 rides myself last year. I loved it.”

Organizers said eight local agencies and multiple friends and family members of volunteers participated last year and even more are interested now.

“We see this as a contribution to building a more inclusive community,” said Lepping, who was nominated for the 2018 Sequim Citizen of the Year award.

“The trail is for everybody, even people who cannot cycle for themselves.”

What to know

For the training session, 20-plus returning and new volunteers attended.

However, before they hit the Olympic Discovery Trail and provide rides, they’ll each have background checks performed and be required to log at least six hours of riding the bike, three on each bike, before providing rides.

Rides start from Railroad Bridge Park and are limited to the Olympic Discovery Trail in the Sequim area because it doesn’t have many hills, volunteers said.

“The goal is to give the Wheeler the smoothest ride possible,” board member Leilani Sundt said.

Pilots also will use the electric pedal-assist feature to help with any steeper sections.

Every ride will be accompanied by at least one Safety, another bicycle riding nearby.

Each Wheeler is required to have a waiver, Muncey said, and that they host a wide range of people from the mobility impaired to those with memory loss.

They’ve only had a few instances where people wanted to turn around, he said.

“The most popular phrase I heard was ‘go faster,’” Muncey said.

Funding

The newest adaptive bike, a 2019 Opair, cost about $8,500 Lepping said, and to date, Sequim Wheelers, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, has received about $30,000 from private and group donations, such as from the First Federal Community Foundation, Sequim Lavender Farmers Association, Olympic Peninsula Bicycle Alliance and the Sequim Sunrise Rotary.

Donations have helped cover expenses, such as insurance and maintenance.

The River Center was storing the first bike, a 2018 Duet, but a neighbor has offered to store the bicycles as they’ve outgrown the space.

Lepping said volunteers hope to raise enough by 2021 to purchase a side-by-side tandem bicycle to help people recovering from physical ailments.

“The idea is that they can pedal as they are able whether for a minute or two and then rest their feet on a bar,” she said.

Along with putting on the miles, volunteers plan to attend and participate in multiple events in the coming months.

Look for them riding in the Sequim Irrigation Festival’s Grand Parade on May 11.

To learn more about the program and/or make a donation, visit www.sequimwheelers.com/ or www.facebook.com/Sequimwheelers/.

Donations can be sent to “Sequim Wheelers, P.O. Box 276, Carlsborg, WA, 98324.”

For questions or inquiries, contact Sequim Wheelers at Sequimwheelers@yahoo.com, 360-591-3200 or 206-817-5634.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

Volunteer cyclists look to another successful season with the Sequim Wheelers. They gathered for annual training on April 3 in the Dungeness River Audubon Center. In the weeks to come, they’ll train at least six hours on adaptive bicycles before providing rides. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Volunteer cyclists look to another successful season with the Sequim Wheelers. They gathered for annual training on April 3 in the Dungeness River Audubon Center. In the weeks to come, they’ll train at least six hours on adaptive bicycles before providing rides. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Joel McGehee, left, and Ron Adler, both of Sequim, look at the newest bicycle for the Sequim Wheelers program. Organizers plan to start giving rides in late April/early May for around four months. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Joel McGehee, left, and Ron Adler, both of Sequim, look at the newest bicycle for the Sequim Wheelers program. Organizers plan to start giving rides in late April/early May for around four months. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

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