This post originally appeared on the Charlie’s Freewheels blog

Canadaimm

Immigration is a big part of life here, where half of all Torontonians were born somewhere else! Many of us, our parents or our friends have personally experienced what it means to overhaul your life and settle down in a new place.

What lots of people have noticed is that newcomers are particularly open to adopting new behaviour. Which makes sense: getting to a new country, we are eager to take up new customs, and it’s easier to get over old habits.

That’s why it’s so important to encourage new immigrants to Toronto to cycle. If we can show newcomers that cycling is affordable, healthy and convenient, they’ll more readily use a bike to get around. And they’ll become part of the ever growing contingent of Toronto cyclists, pushing the benefits of cycling to society at large and enabling more infrastructure that will make biking even more viable and safe.

But with the image of what it means to successfully integrate, a lot of new immigrants have expectations of getting a car when they come to Canada, even if they come from a place where cycling is an everyday way to get around. According to the Toronto Cycling Think & Do Tank, many new immigrants consider bicycles a “second class” mode of transportation, chosen out of necessity rather than desire.

It seems our trusty bicycle has an image problem. But we can get over it!

CANADA-BIKELots of organizations are working to connect new immigrants to bicycles. Since 2009, CultureLinkand Cycle Toronto have collaborated to offer Bike Host, a program that has been giving bike tours of the city, mentorships and road safety courses to newcomers. Once a participant has gone through the program, they then mentor the next group of newcomers the following summer.

Charlie’s serves youth from Regent and Moss Parks, the neighbourhoods that have some of the highest concentrations of immigrants in the country. Recognizing that newcomers are especially suitable cyclists, our programs normalize cycling as a viable way to get from A to B in Canada, and the most affordable, convenient and healthy transportation option.

caravan

We like the way Caravane, an immigrant-cycling organization in Montreal puts it. Bicycling is a way of participating in a culture, and when you participate, you integrate.

So let’s keep supporting newcomers with bikes!

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