News / Edmonton

Edmonton cyclist denied entry to bike shop 'based on gender’

On a recent Sunday evening, John (who asked for his full name to be withheld) was riding his bike with his wife and two daughters.

The family needed bike parts and was interested in buying a bike, so they rode to the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters’ Society’s BikeWorks South, near Whyte Avenue.

But at the volunteer-staffed shop, people at the bike works allegedly told John he couldn’t come inside, yet his wife could. “I was denied entry based on gender. I was surprised,” he said.

Despite an open for business sign, John said he was barred entry because of the society’s “Women, Trans and Gender Non-Binary” program that was being held at the shop that Sunday.

The Sunday afternoon program is held three times a month, and allows individuals identifying with those specific groups to participate in what the society’s website describes as a “safe space” at BikeWorks.

“If you do not identify as woman, trans or non-binary, you can support this important initiative by … respecting the space and not entering during the Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program,” reads the society’s website.

Regardless, John said he felt excluded based on gender — and has filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission solely because of his exclusion, not because of the program.

“I have no problem with a program that is trying to get women, trans-gendered and non-binary people in there, but don’t segregate,” he said.

This is not the first time Edmonton Bicycle Commuters has heard complaints from people who felt barred from entering the shop during the program, which started in 2010, said Chris Chan, executive director of EBC.

But Chan said this program and others that the group runs cater to specific demands from local cyclists.

“We offer a range of classes and programs because not everyone feels comfortable in every single situation all the time,” he said.

“It’s about finding that balance in making sure our shop is affordable and accessible but still providing a service to as many people as possible. I don’t think we can provide a single, unified service that everybody would feel comfortable with all the time, at the same time.”

Chan said the society is examining all of its programs to see if they are most effectively meeting the needs of cyclists.

“We certainly are looking at this program and constantly thinking about it, and we are thinking about it more at the moment. We’ve updated the wording on our website so there’s less confusion about what the program is. I think that’s a lot of it.”

-With files from Tim Querengesser

In their own words, according to Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society

Here's what EBC's website says about why they have a women, trans and gender non-binary bike repair program.

  • "(S)tudies show a 3:1 ratio of male to female cyclists, and the numbers are even more imbalanced in the world of bike repair."
  • "Mechanical repair has traditionally been a male-dominated field. Bike repair shops are often staffed entirely by male mechanics, and genders may be treated differently, sometimes in subtle ways."
  • "Our Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program helps reduce barriers to bringing more women, trans and non-binary persons into our shop, which helps EBC to train & recruit non-male mechanics for public shop days, making those days more welcoming for everyone."

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