Two Wheel View is Encouraging Youth to Reach Their Full Potential
Guest post written by Laura Istead (Two Wheel View)
Do you remember your first bike?
I can still see mine so clearly. It was used and blue with a white bike seat. Most importantly though, it had a bright red basket that held my brown Fisher Price tape recorder. I could play my parent’s oldies tapes, singing at the top of my lungs, while I zoomed around our close-knit neighbourhood in Regina. It was freedom, independence and the starting point for adventure. Little did I know, years later, I would play a role in providing first bike experiences for many young people in our Calgary neighbourhoods with Two Wheel View.
Two Wheel View is a youth development organization that uses the bicycle to help youth build confidence, leadership and employability skills. We envision a resilient community coming together to connect youth with the tools they need to succeed.
Two Wheel View Programs
Our largest program, Earn-a-Bike, works with over 300 Calgary youth in grades 7-12 through the school year. These youth complete a ten-week program that teaches them bike mechanics and social skills such as team work and leadership that help them develop a sense of belonging. At the end of the 10 weeks, they earn a new-to-them bicycle (donated by local Calgarians), a lock, helmet, toolkit and resources to help them navigate their community and the city. For these young people, the bikes they earn through our program are often the first one they’ve ever owned.
In our GAP Employability program, we use bike mechanics to work with young adults aged 18-24 to help them gain valuable employable skills including: time management, financial literacy, resume writing, interviewing and information on worker’s rights. It also gives them the opportunity to practice their skills and gain confidence in their abilities through practical experience. We were recently profiled on CTV – check out the video.
We run other smaller programs, workshops and events to help folks discover all the great things a life on two wheels can bring them. Bicycles are a powerful tool and metaphor for overcoming challenging life circumstances, building confidence and gaining access to new opportunities.
Rolling along into 2023, Two Wheel View wants to actively address the lack of gender equity in the cycling community that we’ve observed during our years doing this work. There are many stories from pay and sponsorship inequity, to non-male folks feeling unsupported and unsafe in bike shops, to the underrepresentation of non-male identifying folks in bike mechanics. We’ve also seen this reflected in our programs, with female-identifying youth only making up about 25% of our participants and those who identify as trans, femme or non-Binary are even less represented.
Our participants face a multitude of challenges and barriers including: homelessness, food insecurity, mental health challenges, the effects of childhood trauma and experience with the criminal justice system. These circumstances lead to feelings of low self-esteem, hopelessness, learning difficulties or behavioural issues, poor educational attainment, and limited employment potential. For women, there are often additional barriers ranging from: gender roles, work-family balance, lack of transport, lack of affordable care, lack of representation, unequal pay and more.
It is our goal is to address this gender gap and make cycling and bike mechanics a place where everyone feels welcome. We are grateful to Silver Gummy and the Silver Gummy community of organizations for their belief in this important work. Recently we’ve been able to undertake these following actions with their support:
- Connected with Queer Education Foundation early Sept 2022 and started a Gender Audit of the whole TWV organization to ensure our policies and practices are supportive of gender diversity and encourage all women, trans, femme, non-Binary identifying folks to join our organization.
- Between Sept 2022 and March 2023, the following activities took place with QEF:
- 3 hours of education for all staff on gender equity and inclusion topics (2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion and consent cultures)
- Deep review of the TWV’s Board Policy Manual, Employee Human Resources Policies, Volunteer policies and program literature
- 1 survey sent to Earn-a-Bike participants to gather feedback
- 2 interviews conducted with gender-diverse youth
- Environmental scan best practices of gender-inclusion literature
- Report for program and organizational improvement received March 30th
- Between September – March, delivered 6 Gender Empowerment Mechanics Nights (GEM) with 27 attendees
- Held an all-hands meeting to make entire team aware of WTFnB initiative and brainstorm ideas for activation
- The creation of pronoun pins for staff to wear to programs and events along with their name tags.
And we are just getting started!
This initiative will continue to be developed and optimized based on the needs of those we serve. Community feedback, internal and external evaluations and partnership feedback will all be assessed on an ongoing basis so that we can continue to incorporate best practices and recommendations and engage in sustainable growth based on what we learn. We don’t know everything and we strive to ensure the voices of those we serve are heard. It is important to have a collaborative, community-based approach to inform what we do.
Do you have any idea? Please connect with us!