The Class of 04’s Travis Shaw has found a unique way to give back to his community! With a specially designed cycle called a trishaw, he’s able to offer those in nursing homes or long-term care facilities the chance to get outside and feel the wind in their hair again.
Travis Shaw, M’04, H’09, drew on his lifelong loves of cycling and community service when he founded a unique nonprofit in Richmond last year.
Shaw, a double board-certified specialist in otolaryngology and facial plastic surgery, has founded Cycling Without Age Richmond. The nonprofit, Richmond’s chapter of a worldwide organization, offers those in nursing homes or long-term care facilities the chance to get outside and feel the wind in their hair on a specially designed cycle called a trishaw.
It’s a program, Shaw explains, that rekindled his love of service and helps him connect with older people, many of whom may otherwise don’t get outside much or feel forgotten. “This is one way to tap into the richness of their lives,” he says. During the outings, which last about a half hour, he gets to know the riders, asking questions about their families, their histories and their interests. Most are grateful for the attention.
Cycling Without Age began in bike-friendly Denmark. Word spread, and so did chapters of the program. Shaw’s mother-in-law alerted him to a video from Scotland that was making the rounds on social media; he was intrigued, and began investigating. Within a week, he decided that Richmond needed it, too. “I’d been looking for a way to combine community service with my love of cycling,” he says.
The cycles differ from traditional pedicabs, Shaw notes, because the passengers sit in the front. “They get a better view,” he says, “and it helps balance the bikes better.” The electric-assist motor makes pedaling easier, though Shaw, a former racer, likes to turn it down to give himself more of a workout.
He applied to the international headquarters and was accepted as a “pilot,” as cyclists are called. Shaw used nearly $10,000 of his own money to purchase one of the trishaw electric-assisted bikes. His mother-in-law made introductions at St. Francis Home, a facility for lower-income people. By August, he was ferrying St. Francis residents – two at a time – near the Forest Hill Park area.
Since then, Cycling Without Age has grown to about 10 volunteer pilots, Shaw says, and a GoFundMe campaign is raising funds for more bikes and longer-lasting batteries for them, with plans to expand the program throughout the area.
“I’ve always felt very strongly that giving back, and being involved in our community and trying to make our community a better place, is an important life mission – for all of us,” he says.
Shaw credits his late father, James O. Shaw, M’70, with instilling the desire to serve. But the younger Shaw wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to do after graduating from Washington and Lee University with a degree in East Asian studies. He taught English in Japan for several years before returning to the U.S., and joining a ski patrol. That job required paramedic training, which kindled an interest in medicine. He took science prerequisites, then enrolled at VCU’s School of Medicine. During his studies, he and his father participated in a medical mission trip to Kenya, where he became fascinated with facial surgery.
Now, with a busy practice, young children and an upcoming gig as an adjunct professor in VCU’s School of Business (where he’ll teach the Business of Medicine and Business Strategy), Shaw admits he doesn’t have a whole lot of spare time. But Cycling Without Age remains a passion that fits into his schedule.
“As physicians, we all want to do something to help other people. But it’s easy to get bogged down with day-in, day-out administrative duties.”
Cycling Without Age allows him to return to a pure essence of service. “I do it because I enjoy it. We all have sense of purpose in our careers, but this is really a sense of purpose in life.”
By Lisa Crutchfield