August 16, 2015
- Published on Mon Jul 20 2015
You arrive in a new country. Maybe you’re starting out at a new job or searching for one. Maybe you can’t afford a car yet, and the transit system is a little baffling because you’re still learning the language. A bike might be just the thing to help you get settled in. That’s where Bike Host, a program created by Culture Link and the Toronto Cycling Think and Do Tank, comes in.
In Ottawa, Bike Host is run by the Healthy Transportation Coalition, and has locations in Bayshore and the Ledbury-Herongate-Ridgemont-Elmwood area. These are areas designated by the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study as less walkable, and with a population of lower-income residents and new Canadians.
The program pairs up newcomers to Canada (and those who self-identify as low-income) with local mentors, who help them learn bicycle maintenance and confidence on the road, and ride with them to help find convenient routes to work, shopping or other destinations.
Bike advocates often talk about the mental and physical health benefits of riding a bike, or the advantages of avoiding traffic jams. Less often, they mention how accessible bikes are. Bikes are cheap, easy to maintain, and don’t incur regular costs for fuel, parking, passes or tickets.
Trevor Haché, from the Healthy Transportation Coalition, said that working with newcomers to Canada helps to encourage sustainable transportation options. “Some people come to Canada and see that everyone is buying a car, so they aspire to car ownership too,” he said. “We hope to show that cycling is a viable option.” He added that it helps people stay healthy, establish social connections and save money. “We hope they’ll become lifelong cyclists.”
Volunteer mentors need to be over 18 and confident on the roads. They have the option of getting their Cycling Canada CAN-BIKE instructor certification for free. Mentees need to be comfortable riding a bike, but don’t necessarily have to own one: If they can’t afford a bicycle, Bike Host can help cover the cost of purchase, thanks to support from a number of grants. Everyone involved needs to be able to commit to a number of activities over the summer, including maintenance classes, safe cycling training, rides with mentees and potluck lunches so people can get to know each other.
Bike Host is still looking for both mentors and mentees. Events begin this weekend and run through August, and participants can sign up online at healthytransportation.ca/bike-host.
Kathryn Hunt @k8thek8 is a writer, editor of Centretown BUZZ, storyteller, poet, cycling blogger, rock climber, mysterious techno vixen (confirmed) and geek. Not necessarily in that order. You can read her cycling blog at