Compassion and empathy: bike share staples during COVID-19

Hello to all our riders! We are thinking of you and your families and friends as we navigate these transformative times together as a community. 

I was thinking recently of how one of the most valuable aspects of my job as the ERI’s Equity Coordinator is creating and nourishing connections. During COVID-19’s physical distancing protocols, the ERI team can no longer meet with new riders face-to-face. Instead, we are working to sign up new riders via phone, email, at the Wesley Day Center, via our online registration form, and of course, using our educational ERI Toolkit.  

However, despite all the ways we have adapted our programming to reach new riders, I am sometimes struck by the ways in which new connections can bloom organically- and unexpectedly- of their own accord.

Last week, I signed up a new rider over the phone- we’ll call him James. Two days after I had educated James and activated his pass, he called me. He had just spoken to a potential rider outside his apartment who had expressed interest in the blue bike locked nearby- would this new rider be able to receive a pass from us? James let the rider use his phone on speaker mode after he told James he had neither a phone number nor internet access.

I listened as James gave a quick summary of Pedal pass rules to the new rider. I knew I would have to go over the rules again in a few minutes, but I was touched by the care with which James reassured his companion about cycling on the road. After I went over the Toolkit with the rider, I realized I had forgotten to tell him that he would have to go to a location by our closed office to pick up a blue bike card used to sign out bikes. “Oh, that’s no problem”, James assured me after overhearing our conversation, “I picked up two cards when I signed up the other day. One for me, and another for anyone I thought could use it.”

When I think of all the uncertainties and rituals we’ve had to adjust to during COVID-19, I can never do so without noticing the kindness and compassion I’ve seen rise here in Hamilton, such as James helping someone he had just met receive a subsidized bike share pass to get around the city.

I also think of Krista Rao, Welcome Inn’s Community Coordinator and an Everyone Rides longtime champion, who let me know she’d be happy to distribute ERI program information to all Food Bank clients so that they could access subsidized passes in order to ride for pleasure and to do essential errands.

I think of the ERI riders I have bumped into in public and enjoyed chatting with from a minimum 2 metre distance, them sitting on SoBi bikes and me waiting in line for groceries. I’ve smiled and assured a longtime rider I ran into that yes, his baby grandson was in fact the cutest thing I’ve seen this year (as I squinted at his phone photo from an admittedly difficult viewing distance). 

And lastly, I think of the comfort I take in the bike lanes around my home; where on any given day on my daily walk I see parents and their children ride bikes together, pedalling slowly to make sure everyone can keep up. Riding behind these families in the bike lane are SoBi riders, including a few ERI riders I signed up some months ago, patiently bringing up the rear and keeping a safe distance between themselves and the other cyclists. No one ever passes the child or their parent, and everyone reassures the parent with smiles when the latter looks behind them to see if their family is holding up traffic. 

I like to imagine that the solo ERI riders are patient because they enjoy the idea of the kid in front of them thinking they’ve got all the time in the world to explore their neighbourhood by bike. Or maybe those adult riders are just choosing to take a slow roll, enjoying the budding trees and tulips beginning to unfurl in the scenery around them. Either way, I’m glad kindness and patience are traits that my city- our city-  displays when its courage and resilience is tested. 

Since the beginning of stay at home orders, the ERI team has registered 14 riders, with interest rising each day and several riders completing their registration as I speak. And each day as I check on our riders’ accounts, I notice ERI riders taking bikes out and about, tracing new paths around their quiet city. I wish them, and you, well as we move through these times together. 

Stay safe, and be well-


Gage park lies quiet at sunset

Lawrence road bike lanes are clear ahead