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Watch out for wheelchairs biking the streets of Smithers this summer!


Bulkley Lodge Recreation Assistant Shannon Malbeuf takes resident Ruth Mesich for a pedal in the lodge’s new wheelchair bike.
Bulkley Lodge Recreation Assistant Shannon Malbeuf takes resident Ruth Mesich for a pedal in the lodge’s new wheelchair bike.

Yes. You read that correctly. 

Residents of the long-term care facility Bulkley Lodge will be cruising the open road with the help of a new wheelchair bike, purchased by the Bulkley Valley (BV) Health Foundation. 

The new wheelchair bike has someone sitting on a regular bike seat, pedalling in the back, while the wheelchair user is securely fastened on a platform in front.  

“Nobody’s come back with anything other than a smile and one person said they couldn’t go fast enough,” said Shelene McNeil, Bulkley Lodge’s Recreational Therapist. “Some residents were hesitant to go on the bike at first; they were worried they wouldn’t feel in control. But once we convinced them to try it, they’ve loved it.”  

Fun for everyone 

The BV Foundation ordered the bike last summer, but it only just arrived in September. This will be the first full summer staff and residents will be able to fully enjoy the bike’s benefits.  

“It can often be difficult for residents who may have physical, cognitive or communication limitations to engage meaningfully in activities that require a certain set of skills or abilities,” Shelene said. “We can now offer residents the opportunity to engage in a fun leisure activity that is familiar to them but does not require any specific skills or have any predetermined expectations.”  

“Smithers is perfect town for something like this because it’s very bike friendly. There’s lots of bike lanes and not a lot of hills,” she added.  

Family, friends and volunteers can sign the bike out 

Until now, staff have been pedaling residents around town. However, three members of the Smithers Mountain Bike Association have volunteered to do the honours, so residents can get out on the two-wheeler more regularly. BV Lodge will also be offering training to friends and family and any other volunteers who’d like to be able to sign the bike out and take a resident for a ride.  

“It’s not too hard to pedal on flat ground,” Shelene said. “You just have to get comfortable with taking wider turns and using the e-assist on hills.” 

Riders can engage the e-assist, the electric feature that amplifies regular pedalling, with a button on the handlebars.  

Thank you BV Foundation & Smithers Legion 

Northern Health is extremely grateful to the BV Health Foundation for funding the first-ever wheelchair bike at one of our long-term care facilities in Northern BC. We are also thankful to the Smithers Legion, who kicked in extra money at the last minute last summer, when shipping fees for the bike were more than expected.  

Laurel Menzel, Executive Director of the BV Foundation, said, “When Shelene told me how well the bike purchase was going over with staff and residents, I couldn’t stop smiling. We fund a lot of medical equipment through the Foundation and this is a real feel-good item. Everything we purchase has importance and purpose, and this bike is certainly no exception.” 

“Keep an eye out for these community members, take care when passing, and remember to wave!” she added.