Guest post by: Chantelle Campbell-Sholzberg, Bike to School Project, CultureLink Settlement and Community Services
The West Hill Bike Club (WHBC) is an after-school program coordinated by CultureLink Settlement and Community Services. Taking place at West Hill Collegiate Institute once a week, it engages Scarborough youth in anything bicycle related, creating an active space for cycling culture. The project is funded by the Toronto Foundation and supported by the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation’s Scarborough Cycles project with a generous loan of 16 bicycles to make up our fleet.
WHBC members range from grade 9 to 12 and are invited to participate no matter their skill level. We have undergone various skill building exercises including safety lessons, basic bike mechanics, and media documentation training.
WHBC had the pleasure of teaching a member how to ride and to be confident in her skills. Over two weeks, we teamed up in the school gymnasium to run practice drills and catered personal learn-to-ride lessons for our novice member. With hands-on participation from a couple of club members and a chorus of background cheerleaders, we created a fun encouraging environment that proved successful. By the end of the second day she was riding laps around the group. With music and laughter filling the air, this was just one of our many activities designed for inclusion.
Building up community partnerships in the neighbourhood has led to some of the most exciting opportunities for the youth. In the middle of February, we were provided a behind th scenes look at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Due to the fact this was the middle of winter, it was unknown up until the day what mode of transportation we would be taking. The school is a short 25 minute walk or two Scarborough-sized bus stops away from the Centre. However, our preference was to ride our bikes.
The weather was unseasonal at 17 °C and sunny so we took our favourite path in Morningside Park and ended up behind UTSC campus. Using our safe cycling skills, we navigated our way across the campus and along Military Trail. The last portion involved riding with vehicular traffic. Some of our membes are comfortable on the road while others are not, so we took our time. We were welcomed by rows and rows of bicycle ring-and-post parking where we settled the fleet.
Gabriela Estrada, of UTSC Athletics gave us a comprehensive tour of the facilities and left us with a sense of awe. This event showed that life is not only about the destination – it’s about the journey. With that, we ventured back through the park in the direction of a lovely sunset thinking about what more is to come.
Photo credit: Chantelle Campbell-Sholzberg