On the road with a Bike Host match

Imagine arriving in a new country - everything is different. A new language to learn, a different culture to discover, and you’re still learning how and where to find a job, shop for groceries, and meet new friends. This is the situation many immigrants and refugees find themselves in when they first arrive to Canada and begin their new lives in the beautiful City of Vancouver.

This year HUB Cycling partnered with the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia (ISSofBC) to deliver Vancouver’s first ever Newcomer Bike Host Program. Modelled after Canada’s first Bike Host program in Toronto, the program matches recent immigrants and refugees with local “host” volunteers for companionship and cultural orientation to Vancouver’s active transportation lifestyle.

Our very own Tim Aeberli, Bike Host Program Coordinator, recently rode along with Bike Host match Puja & Howard during one of their weekly rides.

On the road with Puja & Howard

“Howard is my first Canadian friend”, Puja says proudly as he unlocks his bike outside the ISSofBC Welcome Center. Having arrived at the beginning of this year from Mongolia, Puja is one of our 23 newcomers who joined the Bike Host program this summer. He lives in Joyce-Collingwood with his family and currently attends an English language class, which is where he heard about the program.

Howard arrives, checks if Puja’s bike is safe for the ride, and they start planning their road ride together. “Let’s check out the murals off Main Street!” Howard suggests.“What are murals?”, Puja asks curiously.

Howard is one of our dedicated volunteers that spends two hours weekly with their newcomer to help teach them about cycling in the city. Being a long-time resident and cyclist of Vancouver he draws on his wealth of local knowledge to introduce the city to Puja.

“I feel good now and I look forward to continue to cycle after program ends to keep fit and healthy.” - Puja, newcomer from Mongolia

We hit the road. Right onto Victoria, left turn using the bike box onto broadway, right onto the grandview bike lane. Puja is now confident on his bike after nearly three months of weekly cycle rides with Howard, and uses his arms to signal while he follows Howard through the city streets. Newcomers like Puja receive many benefits from the program which go beyond learning to cycle and include practising their english, meeting new people, staying healthy and saving money on transportation.

“I feel good now” Puja tells me afterwards. “I look forward to continue to cycle after program ends to keep fit and healthy”.

Our first year of the Bike Host program is wrapping up this month. Learn more about Bike Host.