A new bicycle mentorship program organized by the Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation has finally taken off after a bumpy start due to the pandemic.
On Saturday, 10 bikes were given to families at the Shelldale Family Gateway and EARLYON Centre as part of the Bikes For Community Connections Pilot Initiative (BFCC). This initiative aims to provide bikes and mentorship for newcomers to Canada and teaches them about safe places to ride in Guelph.
The bikes used in the program were donated by residents and safety inspected by Speed River Bicycle prior to being distributed.
“Everybody was extremely happy to get a bike, they couldn’t believe that we were actually giving a free bike away,” said GCAT president Mike Darmon.
Darmon said GCAT members gave a brief lesson to participants during the event on how to use the bikes and also provided them with helmets, locks, bike maps and lights.
“It won’t just be giving a bike away, it’ll be follow-ups, and we’ll have some training when we can do that again," he said.
Originally hoping to give away 30 bicycles through BFCC, the GCAT had to change plans due to the pandemic and concerns around safely storing the bikes during the winter.
“Our plan is to continue the program once COVID’s completely done, and do a lot more mentoring and engage with the community itself to train them on bikes, and that sort of stuff as well," said Darmon.
Darmon mentions the program has been made possible through community partners, including the City of Guelph, Shelldale Family Gateway, Speed River Bicycle, Immigrant Services Guelph Wellington, Guelph-Wellington Local Immigration Partnership and researchers at the University of Guelph.
For some of the recipients, having a bike will now provide them with a more efficient method of getting to work. Darmon recalls hearing a story from one man about his two-hour commute on public transit.
“It was taking him two hours on a bus to get to work, where it was much more direct if he could ride a bike to work, and he could probably make it in half an hour compared to the two hours,” said Darmon.
“It’s an example of where the bike can really shine in those circumstances,”
Post pandemic, Darmon explains GCAT will be organizing more events through BFCC while continuing to do their advocacy work within Guelph.