When Lisa Saksida first heard about Ark Aid Mission’s community cruiser program, she knew she could assist.
“I was planning to upgrade my bike to an electric version and didn’t know what to do with my current cargo bike,” said Saksida, a Western University neuroscientist and BrainsCAN’s scientific co-director.
Ark Aid Mission is a community-based organization in London, Ont., that creates tools and services to help people in need. Its day programs, advocacy and outreach services are developed to assist all individuals. The mission recently developed a community cruiser program to help volunteers reach vulnerable Londoners in the downtown area. Saksida donated her cargo bike to Ark’s community cruisers.
“I was so excited to share the news with our team!” said Jacki Kostuk, director of operations for Ark Aid Mission, when she heard about Saksida’s cargo bike. “It’ll be so valuable for the community cruiser program. It will give us the ability to add another outreach team because we’ve got another vehicle in our fleet.”
The community cruisers are equipped with three wheels that allow volunteers to push around cold water, snacks, socks, clothing, first-aid supplies, and naloxone kits and distribute them to those in the downtown area. Saksida’s cargo bike provides the added advantage of being able to carry more of those items on a useable bike.
“A bike is so much more accessible to pathways in London, especially around the Thames River,” said Kostuk. “This will give us extra capability – if the staff team needs to ride along the trail system to reach some of our community members, they can.”
To add to her donation, Saksida approached the London Bicycle Café to see if they could contribute. The downtown shop specializing in bicycles immediately saw the benefit of the community cruiser program.
“A lot of folks who are unhoused are living in areas that are only accessible by bicycle,” said Andrew Hunniford, London Bicycle Café’s general manager. “Lisa brought Ark’s needs to our attention and how they’ll use the bicycle to reach Londoners. We’re all about using bicycles as a solution – it’s an excellent tool for a lot of non-profits.”
London Bicycle Café will provide a safety check for Saksida’s cargo bike and perform yearly maintenance. They’ll also outfit Ark’s volunteers with helmets.
“Ark will be able to take advantage of something that moves, something that they don’t have to push around. Being able to ride is going to help increase their footprint of service,” said Hunniford, whose team will also help with bike issues, routes and advice on how to transport cargo.
For Saksida, her cargo bike wasn’t just for recreation, it’s a general transportation device to get around the city without relying on a car. She is one of many Western faculty, students and staff who use their bikes as a form of active transportation. It’s become so popular on campus that a group of avid bicyclists have developed the Western Active Transportation Society (WATS), promoting safe cycling and walking as a means of transportation on and off campus.
That’s why donating her cargo bike to an organization that uses bikes to reach vulnerable Londoners was the perfect way for Saksida to part with her long-time riding companion.
“I look at what organizations like Ark are doing and I’m just blown away,” said Saksida. “When I heard about them – how they’re contributing to the local community and making life better for people who are living on the streets in downtown London – it seemed to me that any way I could help, even if it’s just in a small way and support the initiative, would be of value to our community.”
How to help
Ark Aid Mission is currently accepting seasonal men and women’s clothing, food donations as well as bikes for its community cruiser program.
For more information, visit https://arkaidmission.com/.