The Hijabs and Helmets activity was launched in 2019.
REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, TORONTO — Being a newcomer to Toronto can be a daunting experience. However, currently there is cycling program to help make things easier for Muslim women.
Activity Hijab and Helmet launched in 2019, after an Access Alliance programmer noticed a shortage of women wearing hijabs cycling in the city. Now, they’re turning around trying to flip the narrative around the stereotypes of cyclists in Toronto.
“This condition should not be something that is very rare, it should be a normal part of the Toronto cycling scene,” said Fei Teng, a manager at Access Alliance who came up with the idea for Hijab and Helmet. daily nestWednesday (2/3/2022).
The program is run by Scarborough Cycles, which operates under the Access Alliance. The Access Alliance is a health and community center that addresses the systemic problems faced by refugees and other new arrivals in Canada.
Their plan to create more space for hijabi cyclists is slowly showing results. Teng said that in all of their organized programmes, apart from Hijabs and Helmets, cyclists with hijabs began to flock to join.
The aim of this initiative is to help build a community for new arrivals, promote physical activity, and take people around their new city. This summer, they hope to offer weekly group trips, the sessions of which can be extended at various times of the year.
The program is said to be open to all skill levels. They recently received funding to purchase a special bike, so newcomers with disabilities can also join in.
“We are fully prepared to teach them. We are skilled and equipped, and we have all the resources available to teach non-riders to get their wheels rolling,” said health promoter and Scarborough Cycles program coordinator, Marvin Macaraig.
He said some people who had joined their activities without prior cycling experience were now able to ride bicycles with their children. Some even use it to commute to work, or buy groceries.
This ability is said to give people the freedom of movement, as well as the ability to save on public transport costs when trying to learn about the city. Most people who join this program have been in Canada for less than five years. These programs not only allow people to learn new activities, but also help build a sense of community.
The services they provide are not limited to just cycling. Apart from that, they also make activities related to walks and nature, as well as workshops. “Participants can make new friends, connect with new participants, and make new friends from this program,” said Maha Mohamed, a resettlement program worker at Access Alliance.
And many of the friendships formed from these activities last a long time. Macaraig said many participants returned for group trips, where they would bring their friends or family, as well as tell their neighbors to join.
Macaraig said the people joining the trip came from all parts of the city. This program is also not prepared only for those who have recently moved from Muslim countries. It welcomes anyone who wants to join regardless of gender or creed.
“Even though the program is called Hijabs and Helmets, actually all walks of life cycle together, including hijab users,” said Teng.
Access Alliance hopes that this program doesn’t start and end just by cycling. Teng said the helmet could be applied to the skating rink, construction work, or anywhere. “We want to promote diversity and try to make our society more welcoming to immigrants from all walks of life,” he said.
Although the cycling community is slowly starting to receive a welcome, with several cheers and applause as they go on their way, Mohamed hopes that one day they can leave without any special attention.
“As the group grew bigger, we became more ‘visible’. And in the end the goal is no one will notice us anymore, as it’s just part of your normal everyday life,” he said.
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