Bike Host is a free cycling mentorship program created by CultureLink. The program matches up newcomers who are open to cycling with mentors who ride regularly. In large and small group activities, Bike Host participants practice their communication skills and learn about civic engagement, all while exploring Toronto by bike. It is a great opportunity for the newcomers to gain Canadian experience while enjoying fun and healthy outdoor activities.
As reported by past participants, the top three benefits of participating in Bike Host are fun, health and exercise, and getting to know new people.
- 86% of participants agreed that the program improved their cycling skills and knowledge.
- By the end of the program participants reported that 31% of their daily trips were made by bike, on average!
- Not surprisingly, 75% of participants reported saving money on transit fares.
- 92% would recommend the program to friends or family.
View the details in this Report, prepared by Trudy Ledsham and Emma Heffernan of the Toronto Cycling Think and Do Tank. For photography and stories by 2016 participants, check out our annual publication, Bike Host 2016.
Mentors are interesting and outgoing Toronto residents from all walks of life. They have strong communication skills and a genuine desire to create a more welcoming community. They must ride regularly and be reasonably confident on city streets. Mentors are required to be at least 19 years of age.
Expected volunteer commitment is approximately 35 hours between June and October. Responsibilities include regular communication with newcomer participants and CultureLink staff, planning activities with 2-4 newcomer participants at mutually agreeable times, participating in monthly large group activities, and supporting the development of cycling skills and confidence.
Additional criteria, skills and requirements for being a successful Bike Host mentor:
- Must attend mentors’ orientation(s) and matching session
- Must provide two references (non-family)
- Must provide a police clearance letter (reimbursement available once accepted into the program; a valid police clearance letter acquired for other jobs/volunteer positions is acceptable)
- Should have knowledge of Toronto’s local culture/neighbourhoods, and free events and activities
- Capability to help newcomers practise English and learn new skills in project management/event planning is an asset
- Small-group facilitation experience and ability to engage participants of varying skills and language levels is an asset
- Experience working with newcomers or diverse clients is an asset
Bike Host newcomer participants are from around the world and have typically lived in Canada anywhere from a few months to 3 years (but there is no maximum to participate). They know how to ride a bicycle, and will be able to borrow a Bike Host bicycle for the summer if they don’t have a bicycle of their own.
Through the program, newcomer participants will gain confidence riding in the city, enjoy fun and healthy outdoor activities, meet people, and gain meaningful Canadian experience. The program falls within CultureLink’s civic engagement mentorship category, as a New Canadian Experience initiative that provides newcomers with volunteer experience, which counts as bona fide work experience.
Requirements to register as a Bike Host newcomer participant include the following:
- Must be a Convention refugee or permanent resident (documents required)
- Must be 19 years or older
- Can commit to 30 volunteer hours
- Speak English (LINC 4 or above)
- Know how to ride a bicycle
- Pass a group interview
The 2017 program begins in June. Newcomer participants, please click here to register. You must select the Civic Engagement stream to be included in the Bike Host group. If you have any questions, contact Rubeen Chauhan, Mentorship Program Worker: firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-588-6288 x231.
Highlights and Media Coverage
January 30, 2017, Metro Morning on CBC: Matt Galloway interviews a Bike Host mentor and mentee!
March 25, 2015, Metro News: Bike Host program helps newcomers get in gear in Toronto
March 19, 2015, Spacing blog: Bikes, Community and New Lives
March 12, 2015, Spacing blog: Green settlement: living sustainable lives in Canada
June 3, 2014, Canadian Immigrant: A Toronto program uses two wheels to connect newcomers to the city
October 23, 2013, Spacing Magazine: Cycling Think & Do Tank: Bikes and Barriers — Is it only the physical ones that matter to New Canadians?
Spring 2012, Rogers TV: Introducing Toronto
April 23, 2012, Toronto Star and Metro: Newcomers to Toronto connect to the city on two wheels
April 20, 2012, CBC’s “Here and Now”: Discovering the city – with a little help from some friends
April 17, 2012, Sing Tao (biggest Chinese newspaper in Canada)
Bike Host is affiliated with CultureLink’s Community Connections Mentorship Program, funded by Citizenship, Immigration and Refugees Canada. In 2017, it is offered in collaboration with the South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC) and Scarborough Cycles, a project funded by the Metcalf Foundation and led by the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, a project of Clean Air Partnership, with partners Cycle Toronto, the Toronto Cycling Think and Do Tank, and CultureLink.
Follow the project on Twitter at @BikeHost