Bicycles are the best form of urban transportation and more people should be out there riding on two wheels. In Toronto, like many North American cities, cyclists in the city are predominately white males (for a variety of reasons). With people stuck at home due to the pandemic there has been an increase in interest in cycling, particularly thanks to reduce vehicular traffic. Thanks to safer roads more people who identify as BIPOC are riding, and the group BIKEPOC is there to encourage even more riders. In 2019 Keiren Alam launched the group to create a more welcoming and diverse cycling community!
2021 will hopefully be a turning point for cyclists in Toronto!
Before the pandemic, Alam hosted monthly rides and workshops on skills like fixing flat tires. Her events were put on pause once the pandemic hit, but Alam organized fundraising rides for Black Lives Matter Toronto in July 2020. Shortly afterwards, she launched BIKEPOC’s bike match program to pair donated bikes with people who had difficulty accessing them. “A lot of people need bikes and the demand is clearly there,” Alam says. “We’re in a pandemic and people are still trying to get to work and are avoiding the TTC for safety.”
BIKEPOC partners with local community bike groups like Charlie’s FreeWheels and Bike Chain to build and repair donated bikes. They completed 20 bike matches last year, getting bikes in the hands of women, children and people of colour. After a winter hiatus, Alam relaunched the bike match program in mid-March and, in two days, she received applications from over 25 people in need of a bike. That’s in addition to the people who signed up last year but still haven’t been matched. “We have a lot of demand and not a lot of bikes coming in or getting donated because there’s a massive shortage of bikes right now.”