There are several emerging organizations and initiatives that use bicycles for social development. As we are currently part of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant for Bicycles for Development (BFD), we hope to continue developing innovative means to use the bicycle for community-building, sustainability, and social justice. We understand the bicycle to not just be a technology for physical activity and transportation, but also one of empowerment, resistance, and social development.

Many grassroots organizations have used the bicycle to achieve sustainability and development goals. In the Global South, BFD programs have specifically targeted gender inequality by providing bicycles to women. Preliminary research demonstrated that the participants of these programs reported using bicycles for mobility, economic market access, health care access, empowerment, and even evading gender-based violence.

Several BFD programs exist in Toronto, Canada as well. For example Bike Brigade uses an anti-oppression framework to assign volunteers to deliver emergency resources in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Charlie’s Freewheels provides barrier-free access to bicycles by empowering youth of colour to build their own bicycles. BikePOC provides free bicycles to women, trans, and non-binary BIPOC people, with a commitment to building safe cycling spaces in Toronto. These examples, of many, demonstrate the potential of the bicycle as a technology to help build community and advocacy for marginalized communities in Toronto.

What it does

Our project is a one-day conference event that includes workshops, resources, presentations, and activities for BFD programs, community members, and researchers to connect and learn from each other. The conference would serve as a moderated conversation enlightened by anti-oppression frameworks and trauma- and violence-informed approaches to sport for development. This project will be an extension of the knowledge-mobilization work we have been working on (see Accomplishments below), to discuss topics related to the bicycle, including:

  • trauma-informed approaches;
  • resilient approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • post-pandemic recovery;
  • environmental and social sustainability;
  • barriers and increasing access to the bicycle;
  • individual skill mastery to enhance the understanding of how to use the bicycle (using bicycle tools for maintenance and repair, gears and mechanics, etc.);
  • safety and riding;
  • bicycle justice and accessibility (including the intersections of race, gender, dis/ability, sexual orientation, etc.).

BFD programs and organizations in Toronto would be welcome to attend and provide workshops and/or presentations. The hopes for this event would be to create an accessible space for cyclists or community members who are interested in bicycling to contribute to and learn more about the BFD movement.

How we built it

We have built a large foundation of BFD work with the support of various researchers and projects. We have a long-standing relationship with Charlie's Freewheels in Toronto, and currently, we are building a partnership with Bike Brigade to support their research interests for the upcoming year. We have also been working on disseminating the research findings from previous fieldwork on BFD. This includes creating a digital story through video, creating podcast episodes, and maintaining the BFD website and Twitter page.

We have also been engaging in knowledge mobilization training, to make research findings more accessible. In brainstorming for the Global Design Challenge, we focused on coalition-building and our current relationships with BFD organizations to come up with the idea.

Challenges we ran into

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event may not be able to take place in person. While an in-person event would be ideal, we will also plan for a virtual event.

We realize that traditional bicycling is not accessible for all, and creating a safe and accessible space requires a lot of reflexive conversations. In planning for this event, we want to ensure that every person has full access, especially Black and Indigenous folks, people with disabilities, and people with marginalized gender identities. This is why we will be using a trauma- and violence- informed approach, as well as an anti-oppression approach. We will also ensure that we collaborate with diverse participants to get ideas and feedback on creating an accessible environment (from planning to implementation).

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are accomplished researchers with diverse backgrounds, skills, and research engagements. On top of working on our independent projects, working with York university, and working other part-time jobs, we have been able to work on so many projects for BFD. As part of the SSHRC-funded BFD project, we have received training on knowledge mobilization techniques. Currently, we are working on a podcast called Sport, Social Justice & Development Podcast ( available to listen to on Spotify. The podcast critically explores the utility of sport and other forms of physical activity, recreation and leisure used around the world for developmental pursuits and includes exploratory and in-depth conversations with practitioners, researchers, organizational staff, and participants involved with sport, social justice and development programs. This includes episodes on BFD.

We also have been maintaining a Twitter account for the podcast (@SSJDpodcast) and for BFD (@Bicycles4Dev), to post on current BFD and sport for development news, and to help disseminate our projects. A BFD website is also being maintained as a virtual hub for project information, blog posts, and news ( A digital story is in the works to help synthesize and demonstrate the findings of previous BFD work in a more accessible way.

What we learned

We have learned that a lot of collaborative work goes on behind the scenes of knowledge mobilization. We have been fortunate enough to receive training to use different platforms, such as Adobe Audition, iMovie, and Wordpress. Learning how to use our unique skill-sets and strengths to the team’s advantage has been extremely beneficial. As this project moves along, recruiting more support in different areas like marketing, communication, design, etc. will be advantageous for creating an effective event.

What's next for The Bicycle Movement: Cycling for Justice

We hope that this event can serve as a starting point for relationships and conversations around BFD as a social movement for our communities. Using an evaluation tool will be important to meet the goals of the project, and pinpoint where we can make improvements for following events. This might involve surveys and focus groups to discuss the event. Ultimately, this project is meant to encourage collaboration between community members and organizations to help build safer cycling communities and promote social entrepreneurship.

In recent years, there have been calls to increase the uptake of trauma- and violence- informed approaches in sport for development. A trauma- and violence- informed approach to sport and physical activity considers intersecting effects of systemic, structural, and interpersonal violence, considerations often overlooked in sport for development interventions. We would like to co-establish and assess trauma- and violence- informed approaches in BFD for future directions.

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