Kristine A. Schaan, MA, NHA, CPG
Sustainable cities and communities are characterized by an intentional design with consideration of the social, economic and environmental impact. While definitions vary, experts generally agree a sustainable city meets the needs of the present without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and thus, sustainable.
The United Nations Development Goal – Sustainable Cities and Communities (No. 11) – presents the following target: By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities.
An Aging and Changing Globe
The need for a goal addressing sustainable communities reflects a world that is both aging and changing. This is the first time in the history of mankind that the majority of the global population lives in an urban setting. By 2050, estimates report up to 70% of the global population will live in urban areas. Additionally, we are entering unprecedented times with respect to aging. The world has never before experienced such a large and growing aging population. This growth in aging is attributed to two factors.
First, we have experienced significant gains in life expectancy. Prior to the 1900s during the pre industrialized world, average life expectancy is best estimated to be 30 years across all major regions of the world. Present day the average life expectancy across the world is 71.5 years.
Second, fertility rates have fallen dramatically. In the mid 1960s the average woman had more than five children. Present day the average woman has fewer than two and a half children. Developed regions in particular represent some of the lowest fertility rates across the globe. As an example, the lowest fertility rate of 1.6 is found in Europe.
Cycling for Sustainability
I started my journey at Cycling Without Age Singapore first as a volunteer. I remember when initially introduced to the program, I was impressed by the design of the electric trishaw, also known as an E-trishaw. Volunteer pilots use manual pedaling as the primary source of power while relying on an electric throttle as-needed. The motor assist encompasses a rechargeable battery that locks into place near the pilot seat while the trishaw is being used.
The electric motor assist is a simple yet powerful technological innovation offering a range of benefits. First, it enables a wider range of volunteer pilots to support Cycling Without Age. The motor assist allows the pilot to engage the throttle for extra assistance when manual pedaling gets too difficult. Second, the motor assist function provides pilots with increased stamina so they can focus their energy on conversations with the passengers. Third, the rechargeable battery deploys a sustainable and eco-friendly energy source and is deployed as a secondary source of energy. Slow-cycling is a guiding principle of Cycling Without Age and thus, we encourage manual pedaling to be the primary source of powering the trishaw. Our volunteers are trained to use the power assist function when manpower alone is not enough .
Last and most importantly, cycling creates an activity that can be enjoyed and integrated into the community parks and green spaces. This allows greater neighborhood access than engine powered trishaws which are limited exclusively to city roads. By encouraging slow cycling in natural environments conducive to relationship building, Cycling Without Age provides a low-cost and sustainable means for a range of generations to enjoy their community.
Community on Wheels
The impact of Cycling Without Age Singapore towards sustainable cities and communities has been tremendous. Within the last ten months we have reached nearly 8,000 seniors and passengers with limited mobility — giving them the experience of a trishaw ride throughout the Singapore parks and park connectors. In addition, seniors report a 17.4% increase in social connectedness and community connection.
The United Nations has also set forth the following target within this development goal (no.11): Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage. Through our efforts under the Moving Generations program we have linked over 400 youth pilots to these seniors while also collecting hundreds of stories. The cycling sessions help preserve the cultural heritage of Singapore by providing seniors a venue to share their life experiences and stories to younger generations.
“It gives me a chance to interact with the generation that built Singapore.” -Youth Pilot, CWA Singapore
“It’s never a dull moment volunteering with CWA. The seniors have so many colorful stories to tell.” -Youth Pilot, CWA Singapore
Cycling Without Age offers a unique value proposition in its ability to incorporate isolated seniors in the community while deploying sustainable means. Moreover, this is done by facilitating a platform in which intergenerational relationships can develop and grow. This generativity exchange embodies our guiding principle, without age. A trishaw ride is essentially community building on wheels, at the intersection of sustainability.
About our partner: CWA Singapore has been engaged with Steward Redqueen throughout the past several months, serving as our industry expert. Steward Redqueen is a specialized consultancy that works across the globe advising organizations on impact and sustainability. Their vision is to make business work for society with a focus on integrating sustainability, quantifying impact, and facilitating change.