By Kira Judge, Co-Chair, Saskatoon Cycles
Mark your calendar! On October 16th 2021 we — along with our community partners — are hosting the inaugural Keep Rolling event at the Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan site from 2 pm to 5 pm.
Here’s why: In June 2021 Saskatoon Cycles participated in the first-ever national bike count event organized by Velo Canada Bikes. We were so proud that Saskatoon was selected to be one of the pilot cities. This national recognition confirms that Saskatoon has incredible potential to be a cycle-friendly destination city — in addition to all of the other attractions we are so proud of.
Naturally, I signed up to be a volunteer. My counting spot was at the Gordie Howe Bridge. I was thrilled to count more than 50 cyclists between 4 pm and 6 pm. However this year’s Pedal Poll made me realize that we need to work harder to make Saskatoon’s cycling community more diverse and inclusive. Ninety-five per cent of the cyclists I counted were shirtless Caucasian men! And many other counters made this same observation.
You might be thinking, so what’s wrong with shirtless Caucasian men? My point is that when a key piece of municipal infrastructure is being used by only one segment of our population, that signals we should be doing more to encourage its use by mothers, children, and seniors — all of whom are equally important members of our community. We need to ensure that no one is left behind when it comes to promoting and supporting cycling in Saskatoon.
I came to Canada as an immigrant in 2003 and because I am married to my soul mate Robert, a Caucasian man, I am blind to race most of the time. It never occurred to me that as a newcomer to this country I gained a tremendous privilege — in terms of knowledge, confidence, and support — through my connection Robert, and his family and friends.
I know that — on our own — Saskatoon Cycles cannot increase diversity and inclusion in cycling. That’s why we are so excited to be partnering with Bridge City Bicycle Co-op and Saskatoon Open Door Society to host the first-ever Keep Rolling event — something we hope can become an annual event to celebrate cycling in Saskatoon.
It all started from looking for funds for Saskatoon Cycles as our revenue streams were greatly impacted by pandemic. We submitted an application to the federal government’s Healthy Community program, but our proposal was not funded. When we asked for feedback, it was pointed out that our grant application did not include any community partners who are actively addressing diversity and inclusion locally. In an effort to learn and grow, we partnered with Saskatoon Open Door Society and re-submitted our application to promote our bike buddy mentorship program (which is already operating unofficially). We are still waiting to hear back on the second round of funding, which is supposed to be announced September 27th.
At our August board meeting (our first face to face meeting in the last 18 months) we had an unusually young guest named Shravia. She is a youth volunteer with the Open Door Society’s youth program, which is led by Dana — who also just happens to serve on the board of the Bridge City Bicycle Coop. Shravya shared her idea with us about how cycling can empower teenagers who are new to our community, based on her own experience with BCBC. She is going to be at our event on October 16th and you will have the pleasure of meeting her and learning her story. When we heard her story, we decided we didn’t need to wait for federal funding to start serving our community.
We were able to secure some funding from the City of Saskatoon to host this truly community event, which will also feature local musicians who use bicycles to share their art. BCBC will be there to share information about their programs. There will be experts presenting on the walkability of communities, and a cultural expert who will teach us how to be culturally intelligent.
Saskatoon Cycles will distribute copies of the city’s bicycle bylaws. And we will have food prepared by a local caterer with sustainable catering practices, which we are so hoping will be blessed by one of the Elders I had an honour to meet back in June at the Fire Ceremony and hear some of their stories as well.
If you’re interested, please sign up here.
I hope to see you out!