Published on October 4, 2021
The Gateway Bicycle Hub in Toronto is bringing a community together through biking.
When Abdullah Ughratadar was 15, he wanted to get into biking. But he needed a bike to get started.
He’d heard about a community space in his neighbourhood that provided a bike for free as part of its “Earn-A-Bike” program. So, he signed up.
“It was a three-day program, and I learned how to fix up and take care of a bike,” he explains. “I went into the program looking for a free bike, but I came away with a lot more knowledge than I expected.”
Fast forward a few years, and Abdullah is a part-time staff member at The Gateway Bicycle Hub, a community space in the Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Park neighbourhoods of Toronto, dedicated to giving people the skills they need to repair, repurpose and ride bikes.
The Hub launched in the spring of 2019, as part of a network of hubs supported by the City of Toronto’s Community Reduce & Reuse Program, and is an initiative in partnership with The Neighbourhood Organization, Flemingdon Health Centre, and Evergreen.
Its work breaks down barriers to access for bikes, biking skills and biking on city streets and the ravine system. We spoke to a few community members about how it has impacted them.
There are plenty of ways the Hub helps community members to learn the basics of bikes, from the Earn-a-Bike program Abdullah participated in, to its weekly ‘DIY Workshop Space,’ where anyone can come by for Do-It-Yourself bike repair with help from the Hub’s staff and volunteers.
“The Earn-a-Bike program was such a great experience for me, it segued into my volunteering and then eventually being hired as a staff member,” shares Abdullah.
He’s not alone — Ahmed Manjra, a grade-11 student who lives in the area, first heard about the Hub from a friend.
“In the summer of 2020, I had just recently bought a bike and my friend took me to the hub to learn how to repair it,” he shares.
“I started going to the DIY Workshop every week, just to do a few modifications on my bike. After about a month I started volunteering on a weekly basis.”
The Hub helps community members access bikes, and learn how to take care of them. It also helps participants improve their biking skills, offering learn-to-ride programming that builds confidence biking through the neighborhood, and in the nearby ravine trails.
“Over the summer, I went to from barely being able to keep up with mountain biking on the ravine trails to loving it so much that I got my own mountain bike,” says Abdullah.
Ahmed also found himself biking more in the ravine system, at first during rides with the Hub, and then by himself, and with friends and family.
“I didn’t know much about mountain biking before, but at the Hub they really encouraged using the trails in the ravine system,” he says. “I’ve gotten a few friends to come to the hub for DIY work as well, as well as cousins and family. Now I’ll often go riding with them.”
Outside of events and programming, the Hub has become a space for people to gather and spend time together.
“It’s a very community-oriented space,” says Abdullah. “Whether you’re there to learn or just chill out, there’s usually a group of people there, enjoying the space.”
“It’s really nice there, really nice vibes,” Ahmed adds. “It helps to have a space for getting active, which has been hard during the pandemic.”
The Hub’s learn-to-ride programming has helped community members who might not have considered biking in Toronto pick up a bike again.
“I’ve had people who started biking and then stopped biking before I was born come to the Hub and learn to ride again.”
– Abdullah Ughratadar