The Season of Giving
In light of the time of year, this week’s post is all about bicycle related initiatives across British Columbia that give back to our communities.
1. Giving bikes to refugees and newcomers.
A group of boys in Langley were commended this past fall for their work collecting donations of used bikes and redistributing them to refugee families in Fraser Valley during their 3rd annual Wheels 4 Refugees campaign (https://www.langleytimes.com/community/langley-boys-collecting-bikes-for-refugees/). “We like to ride our bikes and I think all kids should ride bikes because it is fun,” one of the boys said. If you have an older bike collecting dust in your garage why not donate it to someone who can use it?
Another initiative for refugees in the Vancouver area is HUB’s “Newcomer Bike Host Program (https://bikehub.ca/bike-host), which just wrapped up it’s second year. Volunteer “hosts” are matched with recent immigrants and refugees for “companionship and cultural orientation to Vancouver’s active transportation lifestyle.” It can be intimidating venturing out on a bicycle in an unfamiliar country, and this program makes the transition more comfortable. Program participant Bibigul says that being able to cycle around the city makes her feel like a local, and now she is part of the cycling tribe.
2. Helping British Columbians of all ages “feel the wind in their hair” by providing nursing home residents and other elders the chance to go for a bike ride.
The Cycling Without Age program started in Denmark, and there are now three BC chapters in Nelson, Victoria and Sidney (https://cyclingwithoutage.ca/chapters-canada/). The premise behind the program is that riding a bike is a source of joy that no one should be denied. Volunteer pilots ride a trishaw style bike (a.k.a. a bike in the back with a carriage seat in the front). This allows people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to ride a bike the opportunity to feel the joy of a bike ride. It is also a great opportunity for the bicycle pilot to build a relationship with the older person and hear the fascinating stories they have to share.
3. Providing free bike maintenance for the homeless and other vulnerable members of society who depend on a bicycle for transportation.
In Victoria BC, a couple of the local bike shops decided that they wanted to give back to their community in some way so they decided to provide free bicycle maintenance workshops. They hold monthly (or sometimes bi-monthly) bicycle maintenance clinics at Our Place Society, a local inner-city community center that provides services to the most vulnerable members of the city, including the working poor, mentally and physically challenged and the homeless. A couple hours of their time, fixing bikes, can make a big difference. For example, one of the bike shops says, “For many, a working bicycle is the difference between getting and keeping a job or not”(http://thepedaler.ca/program-at-our-place-society/).
Amidst the gift giving that often comes with the holiday season why not gift some of your time back to the community by volunteering for one of these programs. If nothing like it currently exists in community, maybe it’s the perfect project for you to start in 2019!