PHOTO CREDIT: Nyamulola Kambanji for Escape Bicycle Tours
Did you know that foreign-born immigrants represent 19.4% of the population in Ottawa-Gatineau? Imagine if low-income newcomers were encouraged and mentored to use bicycles as a means of transportation. Not only would they gain freedom to travel for work, but they’d save money, and be more physically active.
There is a new program called Bike Host in Ottawa, currently seeking volunteers, that is looking to address these needs of newcomers through cycling mentorship. It’s being run for the first time this summer by BioRegional in both the Bayshore (west end) and Herongate (east end) areas, in conjunction with many partners including Citizens for Safe Cycling, and the Community Foundation of Ottawa.
Newcomer participants already know how to ride a bike from when they were younger, but need help getting back on. This includes access to bicycles, helmets, and personal guidance utilizing this new transportation tool in their new surroundings. The program hopes to serve 70 newcomers this summer depending on newcomer demand and volunteer capacity.
Mentors will commit a few hours each week, between July 11th and August 26th. Each mentor will support between 2-3 mentees and attend 3 scheduled events as a group, plus their own scheduled ‘shadow rides’ to show each newcomer a familiar route to work, school, grocery shopping, etc. Optional CANBIKE instructor courses will be offered for free to mentors, given sufficient registration.
Bike Host has been previously run in Toronto over the last few years as a successful partnership between Cycle Toronto and CultureLink, and the program has been applauded for high success and retention rates. If the program is successful in Ottawa, it could become a staple here too, providing newcomers with a valuable resource for getting off to a great start in Canada!
Footnote on Immigration Statistics: http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/as-sa/99-010-x/99-010-x2011001-eng.cfm