Published on August 11, 2022
From workshops to ride-a-longs, the Bike Hub is taking an innovative approach to connecting community.
Faysal Sulatch likes to joke that he traded in four wheels for ten wheels.
After selling his car in 2018, the Flemingdon Park resident and his four children now use bicycles to get around the neighbourhood and beyond.
“Ever since then I’ve never found the need for a car,” he says. “We use our bicycles to get our groceries, to go to Ikea, to go downtown.”
But Sulatch admits the family would have given up on their bicycles long ago if not for the Gateway Bicycle Hub, a community project that encourages the repair and repurposing of bicycles. The hub is a partnership between the City of Toronto’s Community Reduce & Reuse Program, Evergreen, The Neighbourhood Organization, and Flemingdon Health Centre and generously supported by Manulife.
From waste diversion, to encouraging active transportation, here’s how the Hub has become an innovative solution for community building.
Under the City of Toronto’s Community Reduce and Reuse Program, the Gateway Bicycle Hub was launched with the goal of taking discarded, abandoned and used bikes, fixing them up and giving them to people who need them.
It wasn’t long after Sulatch and his family started cycling that he first heard about the Hub. He had the bikes — now he wanted to learn how to maintain and repair them.
“People buy a bike and a helmet. Nobody buys any tools, or a pump or grease for a chain,” he says. “The Hub has so many tools, you can get your questions answered and get your hands dirty.”
His children have also picked up bicycle repair skills, with his son even receiving his bike repair certificate at the Hub.
In just a few years, the Hub has refurbished and repaired more than 3,000 bikes, diverting more than 30,000 pounds of waste from landfills.
“I’ve seen enough bikes get wasted,” he adds. “People ride it for one season and it’s all rusted and destroyed. If I didn’t have this support from the Hub I would have eventually given up on the whole idea.”
Since its launch, the Bike Hub has become much more than a waste reduction strategy.
A small shift in programming has added more focus to community development, active transportation and encouraging a healthy lifestyle, explains Ed Mark, Evergreen program officer and manager of the Hub.
This focus includes learn-to-rides, youth ride-a-longs, and the Bike to the Future initiative, a five-week program for teenagers to build their skills and explore opportunities to work in the bike industry.
“We invite industry professionals to talk to them about aspects and options for their careers and aspirations with bikes,” Mark says.
All these programs contribute to building strong connections in the community.
“My daughter joined the Saturday rides,” Sulatch says. “It’s great for her to ride with the other kids. The group has really grown. There’s about 20-25 people now — I don’t remember the group being that big in the beginning.”
Whether enabling active lifestyles or diverting waste, the Bike Hub continues to find innovative ways to make the community more liveable and sustainable.
“One of our innovations in diverting waste is focusing on materials that are not recyclable,” says Mark.
One of the biggest consumables are bicycle tires and tubes, so this year the Hub has delivered workshops for kids that focus on upcycling tubes into something usable, such as jewelry, wallets, and pouches.
“Our kids hear about ‘the environment’ and ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ all the time at school,” says a participant in one of the workshops. “Workshops like this one, however, not only demonstrate reuse and circular creation, but also how to see ourselves as powerful. It shows our children that their creativity and imagination — indeed that they themselves — have much worth.”
The Gateway Bicycle Hub is generously supported by the City of Toronto’s Community Reduce & Reuse Program and Manulife.