Three organizations have begun a unique program for female cyclists (though supporters of women are also invited) in Kitchener, Ontario this August. Each Wednesday at 7pm, a group meets at Kitchener City Hall for a recreational ride through downtown Kitchener, led by volunteers from CLIPPED Outdoors and BikeKitchener. It is an opportunity to meet others in the community who are interested in outdoor activity. Following the ride, the group heads over to Queen Street Yoga for a complimentary yoga class where they are led through a practice geared specifically for cyclists.
I attended the event on the first evening and was surprised at the size of group that it drew from the community. The first two rides comprised approximately 20-25 people, about 90 per cent of whom were female-identified. It was a beautiful fusion of yogis, cyclists and newcomers to both of those worlds, all chatting about sport and the outdoors. Before the ride, I caught up with Juliana of the K-W Newcomer Environmental Group who expressed how vital community events like this are: “People are brand new to Canada and it is so important that they get out and explore the environment and connect with others in the community.”
Several members of the group joined the ride and we set out through the city with the leader of the ride showing the group proper cycling signals and modeling correct use of the bike lanes and sharrows.
Our ride led us down the historical Iron Horse Trail and as we wound our way through the city route, I was able to talk with other local athletes, outdoor enthusiasts and others who were active in city events. We finished the ride near Queen Street Yoga where BikeKitchener provided a safe place to lock up our bikes and we headed into the studio for a light yoga practice.
Anticipating the class to be a simple and short practice, I was pleasantly surprised that the instructor took us through a full hour of strengthening and stretching while carefully explaining why and how it is an effective movement for cyclists. Looking around, it was encouraging to see the entire room following along with energy and excitement, some of them at their very first yoga class.
Following the class, it was clear that an evening of movement had broken down barriers. Attendees were laughing about their inflexibility on the last yoga flow, asking about the model of their new friend’s bike and exchanging information about similar and upcoming events in the community. Their conversations continued after the class was over on twitter.
“For our company, getting people outside and allowing them be immersed in nature is what encourages environmental change,” says Krista, owner of CLIPPED. “It is not our focus to force people to do anything, but to present them with the tools to make changes and allow them to decide.”
If you want to check out programs like this in your city, check out this list of Canadian bike programs to find a place to find your environmental sport community!
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