Breaking down barriers by biking: U of R grad launches community rides for newcomers

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: July 8, 2022 9:00 a.m.

Victoria Flores, pictured in Wascana Park with her dog Monty, has organized a series of free community rides this summer to introduce others to the benefits of biking.
Victoria Flores, pictured in Wascana Park with her dog Monty, has organized a series of free community rides this summer to introduce others to the benefits of biking. Photo: Victoria Flores

It didn’t take Victoria Flores long to decide to ride her bike to the University of Regina when she had to be on campus for classes.

She said cycling was not only cheaper, but also faster once she realized that she was able to avoid the downtown traffic near where she was living at the time by using the city’s multi-use path network.

“I didn’t always bike, but I discovered I can get so many places and I really enjoy it,” Flores said.

Over the years, the 2015 grad has explored trails she didn’t know existed as a both a recreational cyclist and as a commuter – and now she’s sharing her knowledge with others.

What started as a hobby has become a passion project of sorts for Flores, who works as the communications and marketing manager for the Regina Open Door Society, which provides settlement and integration services for immigrants and refugees.

Flores and the Open Door Society have partnered with Bike Regina to organize a series of free community rides on select Wednesday nights this summer, with the goal of making cycling more accessible to anyone new to the city.

Breaking Down Barriers

Flores said she and her team are constantly challenged to break down barriers to help newcomers to Canada find their way around Regina. Transportation is a real barrier for people who have just arrived from other countries and are trying to connect with community and make friends, especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s hard to feel comfortable in a new community when there’s so many restrictions,” said Flores, who got to thinking about ways to help connect people to each other as well as to Regina.

“We have so many areas that are biking and walking friendly. There are picnic tables around, there are beautiful green spaces, there are creeks, there are golf courses,” Flores said. “What if they got to see the spaces? What if people who just moved to Regina or who are in Regina, for that matter, who have never seen any of these spaces, discovered all of these areas?”

Rides by Marv’s, a Saskatoon-based operation founded on fixing up old, broken bicycles that recently expanded to Regina, is on board as well, supporting the initiative by providing more than a dozen bicycles to those who need them.

Cycling Through the City

Despite cloudy skies and a less-than-ideal forecast for the first ride on the evening June 15, Flores led about half a dozen people on bike around the six-kilometre Wascana Lake loop that bumps up against the U of R. Bike Regina was there, too, to provide useful tidbits of information about cycling, park infrastructure, and the history of the area during the hour-long session.

Biking
People ride along the multi-use path in Wascana Park during the June 15 community ride.
Credit: Victoria Flores

“The University is the perfect take-off place to go to almost any end of the city,” Flores said. 

The next ride on July 13 will showcase some of the city’s newest bike infrastructure in the Cathedral Village neighborhood. Like the first ride, it will be about an hour-long, beginning and ending at the same location with stops along the way – including one for ice cream near the end. Participants are asked to meet at the Neil Balkwill Park parking lot at 6 p.m. to prepare to depart at 6:15 p.m.

Two more rides are scheduled: a nature ride in the city’s northwest on August 17 and a sunset cycle in the southeast around Douglas Park on September 14.

For more information, visit: www.rods.sk.ca/events.