Bike wheelPhoto: #2 Son/John

A few years ago, in between journalism jobs, I worked at a domestic violence shelter, helping the women and children there navigate the transition to new and better lives. It was difficult work — there are no simple solutions for women who find themselves in such shelters — but every bit of freedom and self-confidence that they could get was a small triumph.

When you’re broke and scared and used to not being in charge of your own life, regaining autonomy is a step-by-step process. Sometimes it’s as simple as being able to cook what you want for your children, or wear makeup, or apply for a job. Seeing women regain control, one day at a time, was a gratifying and humbling experience.

That’s why I was so pleased to see an item on Biking Toronto about Nellie’s, a shelter for women and children in Toronto that is starting a bike sharing program. From the shelter’s news release:

Nellie’s Women’s Shelter is currently seeking bikes, bells, locks, lights and helmets to help our women get around the city!

Living in a big city is difficult without access to efficient and affordable transportation. That’s why this summer we’re starting a Bike Sharing Program for the women and children at Nellie’s Shelter!

When women come to Nellie’s they are provided with basic necessities like shelter, food, and clothing, but the isolation that comes from living in poverty in an unfamiliar place can be difficult to break. You can help us provide women with access to bikes that will not only increase their mobility and physical wellness, but most importantly allow them to connect with their community, access support, and have some FUN in the process! We are also looking for children’s bikes for our Summer Camp Program.

Riding a bicycle can make you feel free and mobile and empowered. It can mean better access to employment, education, and health care. I hope the women and kids at Nellie’s have the chance to get on those bikes and ride.