Newcomers jump into cycling culture with bike orientation program
The 3-month program, hosted by HUB and ISSofBC, introduces immigrants and refugees to the city’s cycling rules and culture.
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When Vancouver resident Olga Zaytseva rides her bike past drivers stuck in traffic, she wonders why more people don’t cycle.
But that wasn’t always the case for the 36-year-old from Moscow – she arrived in Vancouver a year and a half ago and didn’t have any way of traveling in the city except for walking and taking public transit.
She decided to change that by joining a three-month bike orientation program for immigrants and refugees hosted by HUB and Immigrant Services Society of B.C.
Cycling went from an occasional recreational activity to a primary mode of transportation, for Zaytseva, who doesn’t have a B.C. driver’s licence.
“I have not cycled in traffic in [Russia], just the parks. Now in Vancouver, I see cycling is a part of the culture so I decided this was a good opportunity to be part of the culture.”
She was paired up with Hub volunteer and mentor, Evan Reese, who showed her the ropes.
“Now I can just go from my place to school or to go shopping anywhere. And I’m not afraid of cars and I know the rules,” she said.
Zaytseva, a data analyst, says learning to bike in the city gave her freedom and a sense of belonging in her new home.
“I really explored the city itself. I feel much more settled here and like I belong here and like I’m not a newcomer – like I’m a citizen here. That makes me happy.”
She is one of 51 newcomers who are taking part in HUB and ISSofBC’s Newcomer Bike Program, which started in April. The participants come from over 10 different countries and 37 volunteers are helping them get used to biking in the city, according to a HUB spokesperson.
Joe Goldes, a seasoned city cyclist, is one of the HUB volunteers and says the program was a learning experience for him as well.
“I’m a relative newcomer myself,” explained Goldes, who moved to Vancouver two years ago from Minneapolis.
He met up with his mentee, who grew up in Nanjing, China, once a week for three months and together, they biked throughout the Lower Mainland and explored unfamiliar places.
“It also meant doing cultural things like going to Chinatown. We went to a Sikh temple and ate dinner together once. It was really cool to hang out with somebody who was so excited to see these new things.”
HUB is providing eight bikes that program participants can rent for free and Mobi, the bike-share company, donated three-month passes to the newcomers.