The Program

Portland Wheelers is focused on people living with significant disabilities and our unique way of getting them outdoors for therapeutic recreation, adventure and fun.

Whatever the issue, when people lose ability to function, they can easily become isolated from their larger community. They can experience depression, poor appetite, poor sleep patterns, and more. Whether they live in a group setting or at home, our ride program helps to break down barriers, lift up spirits, and improve quality of life.

To ground this with data, in 2013, Alberta Health Services in Canada showed therapeutic bike riding to dramatically reduce levels of depression. Therapeutic Recreation Manager, Lori Pyne, stated, “Using a scale method for recording, we’ve seen a 91% decrease in depressive symptoms, while 82% of seniors reported a better night’s sleep.” This inspires us. In 2017, Portland Wheelers, in collaboration with The Cedars Nursing Care Center, plans to replicate this study for the first time here in the states.

Rides naturally encourage connection. Wheelers (passengers) and pilots (pedalers) talk together. Greetings and conversations also occur with others on the trail. Seeing us coming, people often say “Hi, that’s awesome!”, stop us to ask questions, and offer praise and support for both the program and our passengers.

Connecting our wheelers with the great outdoors and community at large gives them renewed hope and joy. It also gives them something to talk about when they return home, and something to look forward to the next time.

Greater Portland has miles and miles of glorious trails. These deserve to be enjoyed by people of all abilities. Because our trikes are electric-assist, we can go just about anywhere the trails go – up or down, while our volunteer pilots can go further than they could on their own steam.

Initially, in 2015, our rides originated from Seaside Rehab at 850 Baxter Boulevard, just across the street from Back Cove Trail. We still partner with Seaside, but now serve 12 residential or day-use facilities around Greater Portland. We also serve those living at home via direct pick up / drop off at their houses or from nearby business host locations.

Currently, host sites are used on selected Saturday mornings and include: Cyclemania in Bayside, Holy Donut on Park Avenue across from Deering Oaks, and Rosemont Market locations on Munjoy Hill, in the West End, and the original store in Rosemont. As these dates and locations firm up, check back to see them posted here. Maybe this could benefit you or a loved one.

Portland Wheelers has been granted special permission by the City of Portland Department of Public Services to use our e-assist tricycles on city trails.

Here’s a fun video of people out for a good time. These wheelers were taking part in a 2009 Greensboro, North Carolina, graduate school study of isolation and depression in nursing homes. The wide distribution of this clip and the study itself (link below) led the way for ride therapy putting down roots throughout North America.

This 2010 (revised) research document, “Wheelchair Biking for the Treatment of Depression,” is intended for professionals interested in implementing tricycle ride programs in assisted living facilities. From the study, the following are all potential objectives:

  • to improve socialization as evidenced by verbalizing with at least one other person in the group during each session.
  • to improve mood as evidenced by positive comments about riding and by a happy expression.
  • to increase appetite as evidenced by improved nutritional intake.
  • to improve sleep as evidenced by reducing nighttime rising.
  • to improve concentration as evidenced by staying in the group and remaining on topic during discussions.
  • to improve self-esteem as evidenced by positive descriptions of experience on the bike.
  • to reduce feelings of apathy as evidenced by an expression of looking forward to another ride in the future.”