For immigrants and refugees, getting to know their new homes can be one of the most daunting, challenging, even frightening aspects involved in coming to Canada. Whether Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary or Montreal—or any number of communities in between—a new environment presents its own hurdles.
Recognizing this challenge, advocates and volunteers with HUB, a community organization in Vancouver that promotes cycling, have kicked off a successful new initiative.
In partnership with Immigrant Services Society of B.C., HUB has launched programs that invite newcomers to Canada to get to know the west-coast city by bike. Since May, the program has been a resounding success, when 16 new arrivals were paired with as many Vancouver riders, affording these immigrants and refugees the opportunity to explore and familiarize themselves with their picturesque, bike-friendly new home. Bike hosts and newcomers meet up weekly, going over the rules of the road, local routes, cycling safety, and generally immersing themselves in the culture of their new home.
According to CBC reports, participants in the program come from 10 different countries—China, Iraq, Japan, Syria and Iran among them—and most have been in Canada for less than two years.
“Settling in a new city can be an overwhelming experience,” HUB Cycling bike education manager Alyshia Burak, told the CBC. “By building cycling knowledge and skills, newcomers are introduced to an affordable, healthy and convenient way to explore their new home and build connections.”
Upon completion of the program, participants are gifted with their own bike, helmet and lock in order to keep that momentum going.