Winnipeg group gives free bikes to Indigenous students in need of transportation

A new program is giving bicycles to Indigenous youth who move to Winnipeg for school to help them get around the city as they pursue their studies.

The Manitoba Aboriginal Sports and Recreation Council’s Cycle Indigena WPG program is aimed at First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth aged 16-26. 

“We asked around to different communities and youth living in the city about some of the barriers of living in the city,” said Leah Ferguson, leadership and training manager for the council.

“A big thing was they weren’t comfortable getting around, so they never got to know the city.”

The council hopes that by helping Indigenous students access an active mode of transportation, it will improve their health and overall wellbeing.

Amayra Wilson, 17, is one of the Indigenous students who are getting a free bike.

Wilson, who is Ojibway, moved from her home in Peguis First Nation to Winnipeg nearly three years ago and remembers not feeling comfortable enough to navigate the city’s public transit. With her mom working as a teacher in Portage La Prairie, Wilson would often end up walking to get to where she needed to go.

Her mom heard about the program in the fall, applied online and Wilson’s bike was delivered three weeks ago.

“I also got a helmet with it, a lock, a light for riding at night, and a tire pump,” said Wilson, who is graduating high school this year and has been accepted to the University of Manitoba.

She said since her high school classes went online and her retail job stopped, the bike has also helped her stay in shape, along with running and home weights.

“We make do with what we have, so the bike has definitely helped,” said Wilson.

She plans on using the bike to train for Peguis’ and Fisher River’s Treaty Days Triathlon in the summer.

The council is purchasing refurbished bikes from the Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub (WRENCH). The WRENCH is a non-profit organization for community bike repair and maintenance education.

Part of their agreement will see the students who get a bike go through a program that will teach them the basics of bike maintenance.

Ferguson said that in the first round in December, they had 30 bikes to give away and got 30 applications in total. This time around, they have 20 bikes. 

Ferguson said they choose who will get bikes based on their needs for transportation. 

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