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


Magnolias in Bloom: An ERI Spring Activity Map

Magnolia Map: ERI Ride Activity

View the map at

April 15, 2020

Every spring is marked by the burst of magnolia blossoms throughout Hamilton, and this year the flowers are blooming with the global pandemic as their backdrop. In this uncertain time of change and discomfort, the delicate tepals*** of the magnolia are a fleeting but welcome distraction. 

Hunting for magnolia trees and other plant life is a great way to explore your neighborhood and city, get fresh air, exercise, and connect with nature. We have made this easier than ever by mapping out 37 magnolia trees in our bike share service area

We recommend you use our map to walk or roll to nearby trees in your neighborhood. This is an activity you could integrate into a necessary trip you were already planning (for example, a detour on the way to a grocery store, food bank, or other essential trip) or you could make it an outing to just get your body moving. Along the way you may also see blooms like forsythia (bushes with bright yellow flowers), daffodils, and other colourful signs of spring and renewal. As you become more familiar with your neighborhood magnolias, you may notice that the “star” magnolia trees with white flowers tend to bloom earlier than their pink-hued counterparts. 

Remember to participate in this activity safely, to protect yourself and others. If you are sick, stay home and follow the map next year. Adhere to physical distancing measures whenever you are out and about. This means staying at least 2 meters away from other people. Try seeking out quieter streets and alleys if you are walking, as it may be more feasible to move into the street and put more distance between you and other passersby. You should also wash your hands for at least 20 seconds when you leave your home and when you return, and avoid touching your face. You can read more information about how to keep yourself and others safe here

If you are riding a SoBi to the magnolias, please bring along wipes for the touch surfaces (grips, keypad), use hand sanitizer if you have it, and follow the other protocols we listed in the last paragraph (hand washing and distancing). You can find out more about what SoBi Hamilton is doing during the COVID-19 pandemic here

The map is not exhaustive, so if you see any missing magnolias, tag the Everyone Rides Initiative on social media (Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) with the location and a picture and we will add it to the map! For example, there are many streets in Strathcona, the North End, West Hamilton, and Dundas that we didn’t get to during our initial hunt. This started as a one-person list, and we’d love to see it grow into a collaborative community resource.

Happy magnolia hunting, and stay safe out there. We look forward to riding with you in the future!

Chelsea Cox, ERI Executive Director

***Nerd out on all things magnolia on the Wikipedia page and learn about tepals vs petals.

Additional Resources related to street trees:


Magnolias getting ready to bloom near Lottridge and Barton

Magnolias on East St S near Stinson


Rider update during the Pandemic: Mark Anderson

This time 4 years ago I was already fairly isolated and enjoyed my time alone. That all changed very suddenly when I was diagnosed with diabetes and had to make big changes in my life in order to get healthy. This wake-up-call to my health along with an unexpected fire in my apartment forced me to look outside my solitary comfort zone for help. Since then I have worked really hard to be active and have found riding a bike very fulfilling. Through cycling in Hamilton I have met many people and value the Hamilton cycling community as my community.

Like so many of you during the COVID-19 pandemic, and orders to maintain social distance and stay at home, it has been really hard. I have been isolating, staying home and only going out when necessary. I have missed many programs and meet-ups, such as: my meetings at Steps to Health, which specifically supports quitting smoking through a 'Breathe Easier' program and Accu-Detox, medical appointments and getting together for group rides, Bike Buddy rides, bike repair workshops at New Hope, Dundas Rides and other cycling related meetings.

With new information and closures coming out daily it is so hard to keep up. On March 23rd I went out and did a porch drop off and pick up for a friend and the first thing I noticed was there were a lot less cars and trucks on the road. The second thing I noticed was the air felt a lot different. I had to go out again on March 25th and found the same thing. Our roads are a lot quieter making them safer and the air quality is at healthy levels. Riding your bike or walking are great ways to get some exercise and to help your mental health. However, just because there are less vehicles on the road doesn't mean you should skip the rules of the road.

Remember these important tips:

  1. If you feel sick stay home.
  2. Stay at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people
  3. Stay informed - closures are happening daily, some of your favourite parks or trail might not be open and could lead to fines (As I am writing this they just closed the Wentworth and Chedoke stairs)
Intersection at Bay and Cannon right near the Eco-Counter. As of March 31st, 52 trips taken by bike and 2,227 in the last 30 days)  
Intersection at Bay and Cannon right near the Eco-Counter. According to the eco-counter at this intersection: on March 31st there were 52 trips taken by bike and between March 2nd-31st there were 2,227 trips taken by bike.  


Be Safe, Be Seen, Pedal On and Stay Healthy

Mark Anderson


Connector Interview: Scarlett

Scarlett was a full time Connector in 2019! Read about her summer of community and cycling through her interview with Theron, below. 

Theron: Hi, Scarlett! When did you first start riding SoBi bikes in Hamilton, and what inspired you to do it?

Scarlett: I hadn't owned my own bike in many years, and I was looking for an intermediary solution between bussing and driving or taking a cab. When I learned about SoBi I really wanted to start using the bike system. Several months later I heard about the ERI’s subsidized passes, so I was finally able to get one for myself and explore the city.

I felt more confident and competent after riding the bikes around town: both by seeing new local areas, and also gaining the confidence that comes with being able to transport yourself around a city safely.

T: We’re so glad you found us. How did you hear about the Connector program, and why were you drawn to apply? 

S: I heard about the Connector position from a Facebook post, I believe- probably through a friend of a friend. 

Before I knew about ERI passes and began riding, I honestly didn't realize how popular of a choice SoBis were locally, and how functional, convenient, and affordable they are. For that reason, I was drawn to apply: how could I help other people gain access to this system?

T: A desire to help others gain access to our services is one of the main criteria we look for in our Connector volunteers. What were some of your favourite experiences in the Connector program? 

S: Being an ERI Connector was a very positive experience for me. I really enjoyed making connections and having conversations with a variety of people. I felt happy to be able to educate riders about the SoBi system and how it could benefit them through meeting them where their needs are, whether those needs were transportation or fun. 

I also liked being able to make people smile through the process, like when I got to dance with kids at Barton Play Day while talking to their parents about how they could use ERI passes to ride alongside their children. 

T: I remember how much you loved being engaged with people, and how organically you connected with them. Last question- what would you recommend people do if they are new to or nervous about cycling in Hamilton?

S: It may sound simple, but get yourself an ERI pass! Call or visit the office, and the team can help you get started, and even provide free cycling education and one on one lessons. 

Thanks, Scarlett! 


Job Posting: Adaptive Bike Coordinator

The Everyone Rides Initiative (ERI) is very excited to have the opportunity to hire a new staff person, ERI Adaptive Bike Coordinator. Through our funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation our program offerings are expanding to include adaptive bikes. So far we have purchased a three-wheeled bike and a beautiful nihola cargo bike. Now we are looking for the perfect person to build a program which will support access to adaptive bikes to the people who can benefit most from them in Hamilton. As the Program Manager of the ERI since 2016 I am excited to see this development in our programming finally come to fruition. 

Throughout my time with the ERI program I have been continually identifying and new barriers that may arise for folks and also the long standing barriers that have not yet been address. The introduction of adaptive bikes is a solution to one of those long standing barriers and we are thrilled to introduce access to adaptive bikes into our future program offerings. Stay tuned. 

Click here to learn more about our growing Adaptive Bike Program. 

The Adaptive Bike Coordinator job posting will be active until March 1st. Click here to learn more about the position. 


Connector Interview: Dan's Summer of Equity as an ERI Connector

Theron: Hi, Dan! When did you first start riding SoBi bikes in Hamilton, and what inspired you to do it?

Dan: I first started riding SoBi bikes in 2018, when my brother introduced me to them! He had been riding SoBis for quite some time, and was drawn to their convenience. I had always ridden my own bike around town, which is wonderful- but when you do that, there is always the extra hassle of finding a place to safely leave your bike, and then come back for it. 

For those reasons, I decided to jump on a SoBi and haven't looked back since! In SoBi bikes, I discovered a flexible cycling option that allows me to grab a bike practically anywhere, anytime.

T: I love how your brother encouraged you to give SoBis a try- some folks take a while to discover the bikes on their own! What about the Connector program- how did you hear about it, and why were you inspired to apply? 

D: I heard about the Connector program at the Barton Street Festival, from you! I had been searching for a way to volunteer for a cause I was passionate about for a while, before I discovered the Everyone Rides Initiative (ERI). At the Barton Festival, I inquired about potentially volunteering with group rides. I was not expecting to hear about the new Connector program, but when you explained it to me, I knew that I had to apply. 

The opportunity to play a direct role in Hamilton's cycling community growth, and being able to advocate for accessible cycling options, is what made applying a no-brainer for me.

T: It sounds like you met us at just the right time. So, what were some of your favourite experiences in the Connector program? 

D: One of the simplest but coolest experiences that I had as a Connector was going on ERI group rides. There were many fun ERI events I also attended this summer, but it really meant so much to me to explore different parts of my city, meet new people, and hear about how cycling has changed ERI Riders’ lives! 

The way that the ERI makes group rides accessible for everyone is admirable. Don't have a bike? They have one for you to rent for free. New to cycling and a little nervous? A Connector will ride with you to support you. I strongly recommend that any cyclist, regardless of their experience level, attend a group ride- they truly showcase the great cycling community that we have here in Hamilton.

T: I could tell how much you enjoyed riding next to ERI Riders on group rides, and chatting. Last question-what do you think that the best thing is that Riders take away from the program? 

D: I believe that the best thing Riders take away from the program is the freedom and convenience that having access to SoBi bicycles on a subsidized pass can give them. 

Access to quick and reliable transportation options can often be too expensive, inaccessible, or non existent for some Hamiltonians. I think that new Riders are pleasantly surprised when they realize how conveniently cycling can fit into their daily routine, and that the Everyone Rides Initiative does a fantastic job of introducing cycling as a viable transportation option in peoples' lives

Thanks, Dan! Keep an eye on our ERI Blog for upcoming Connector features. 


Blog Take Over: Chris Ritsma

Being a part of the Everyone Rides Initiative (ERI) was an amazing experience for me, and continues to be so when I join the Initiative on group rides. My goal in volunteering my time for the Initiative was to interact with Hamilton’s Bicycle Share system, and to learn how Riders in the ERI program connect with that system. I was able to share the ERI’s great programming and Hamilton’s amazing bike share system with people in the community who I believe can benefit most from such a program. I think bike share and the Everyone RIdes Initiative centers mobility equity in their work, and ERI is clearly trying to bridge the wide gap of mobility equity for those who need it. The great thing with the ERI is that people who need subsidized bike share passes can self identify as in financial need of them, and I appreciate that the ERI is so open with their criteria for getting a pass. The ERI program tries to be judgement-free, and to allow those who feel they need the program to use it without question. The graduated levels of ERI subsidized bike share passes also allow for people in different socioeconomic circumstances to find which level works best for them, and the subsidized bike share passes’ features like ride credits also assist people in eventually graduating into monthly and annual bike share passes. 

While I was working as an ERI Connector, I attended group bicycle rides, and events like Hamilton Play Day. Both types of events went really well, with the Group Rides allowing people new to cycling in the ERI program or in general to learn how to cycle confidently, share their new love of cycling, and meet other people of all skill levels who love cycling. Group Rides also give people who are new to the ERI the ERI program or cycling in general in the city an opportunity to learn about good cycling trails, and which streets and bicycle lanes they can cycle in more comfortably in, instead of busy roads. The Play Day event I volunteered at allowed children and their parents to learn about the ERI, and gave adults the chance to try out SoBi bikes. Play Day was a great way to connect both with the Sherman hub community, and people who might not ride, but could pass on the details of the program to people who might find the ERI program very useful.

As a moderately experienced cyclist, it was great to share the skills I have learned over time with newer cyclists, such as people who received ERI bike share passes this summer. My volunteering also allowed me to connect with other programs and organizations working on the same solutions for equity in mobility that the ERI is also working to improve. 


Keep on Riding,

Chris Ritsma



Bike Buddies for Kids

New Bike Buddy Mentoring Program: How Kids can Benefit Too

When I was a lot younger than I am today, I remember going into Springy’s on Barton Street with my Mom and Dad and getting my very first bike. I must have been 7 or 8, and I was so excited to ride my bike for the first time. Back then, we lived in a townhouse complex that had many paved paths for walking and cycling. My Dad insisted that I had to know how to ride safely before I crossed the road, and his lessons for me included locating safe places to cross and learning proper hand signals. 

I also remember riding to school the first time: it started with my Dad and I completing practice rides from home to school on the weekend. Then, on the very first day of the school year, I rode to school confidently on my own. I signaled my stops, crossed with the crossing guards, and signaled my turns until I reached the school. I didn’t know it then, but my bike ride opened up a whole new world of freedom, mobility, and responsibility for me. 

Later, I realized that this ride to school was a rite of passage of sorts, it was “the first time I rode to school alone”. I believe that this accomplishment is something that every child should get to experience. After my first ride to school, my Dad would ride with me whenever I started at a new school to be sure I knew about hazards and busy roads. Best of all, he helped me plan routes that would get me to where I wanted to go more quickly. 

To this day I still route plan, and I believe that route planning for cycling is very important from childhood onwards. At my Dad’s encouragement, I also learned how to do minor bike repairs, like fixing a flat and adjusting my seat. The good relationship I had with my bike allowed me to delay in getting my drivers license until I had finished high school.

This month (November 2019), I have been looking forward to an upcoming bike mentorship program: Bike Buddy. This new program is being launched in partnership with the Everyone Rides Initiative, Cycle Hamilton, and the City of Hamilton. The Bike Buddy program will match up experienced cyclists with new or uncertain Riders who want to learn more about cycling, in order to feel comfortable and safe while riding in Hamilton. 

How great would it be if parents could take advantage of this program to refresh their own cycling, bike safety, and route planning skills? Then they could pass this knowledge along to their kids like my own Dad did to me, and teach their kids how to safely ride their bikes to and from school, the community centre, a friend’s house, or the library. Think of how fantastic this parent/child bonding exercise could be-- even running to the corner store with their parents by bike could teach children how to feel safe and comfortable cycling on Hamilton roads.

If the Bike Buddy program expands the way that a lot of us Hamilton cyclists hope it will, the physical and mental health benefits the program could pass on to our community could be numerous. Imagine if this startup bike mentoring program for adults in our neighbourhoods led to the City and School Board having a great “problem” they haven’t seen in decades: keeping up with an overwhelming new demand for student bike racks! 

To me, the possibilities for the Bike Buddy program seems endless. It is my hope that every parent who bikes can learn from educational opportunities like the Bike Buddy Mentoring Program. Their new knowledge might not only stay with them, but be passed down to their children as well.

Be Safe, Be Seen, and Pedal On- and Thanks for Reading!
Mark Anderson, ERI Connector 


Bike Buddy Program

The Everyone Rides Initiative is partnering with Cycle Hamilton and the City of Hamilton to bring you a new and exciting opportunity: participating in a Bike Buddy bike mentoring program! This program will pair riders who want to learn more about cycling in Hamilton with an experienced cycling companion. Each rider will be matched with a mentor based on their stated needs or desires, and the rider and mentor will go on rides together in the city. All skill levels and abilities are welcome to participate. 

Click here if you are interested in being matched with a mentor.


Click here if you are interested in becoming a mentor. 


Blog Take Over

When I went to attend the Cycle Hamilton monthly meeting on March 25th, it was because I had been hankering to get more involved in the cycling community through volunteering. As luck would have it, Theron from the Everyone Rides Initiative (ERI) team was at the meeting to discuss the ERI program, and asked for volunteers for group rides. I jumped at the chance- I think I even waited a few days and then emailed Theron, to be a pest!

Soon enough, I found myself taking Can-Bike Level 4 training, a Canadian bike safety training program whose classes were sponsored by the ERI team. This course was spread over 2 days- the first day being theory and safety, then the second day being practical training, or learning how to ride bikes around the city safely. It was an optional course for me, but I got to put those skills to good use, when I joined the ERI team as a group ride volunteer and mentor.

My Group Rides

My first group ride with the ERI team was the Spring Roll Ride, to the Cycle Hamilton Annual Meeting. The Cannon Street bike lanes being shut down made it an interesting route. After the ride, I spend some time with Thea and Theron at different pop-up locations, learning more about Hamilton Bike Share and the Everyone Rides Initiative. 

The next group ride I went on was the Pride Ride; which went from the Bike Rodeo at Carter Park to the Pride Celebration at Gage Park. I rode as a ride anchor for this ride, and got the chance to talk to a young man who was riding on the sidewalk as the ride went east, even though the majority of the ride was on the road in bike lanes. He said that his mom wouldn't let him ride in bike lanes, because they were dangerous- so we talked a bit about biking, specifically braking and shifting gears. This ride really increased my desire to mentor people on bike riding, safety, and route planning.

The next group ride the ERI team held was for the Pride Rally, and I rode with them from Powell Park to City Hall. We had just met with the Gibson and Landsdale Association (GALA) and wanted to include them, so the ride was held one of GALA’s neighbourhoods, which was a nice way to connect with community.

My time as an ERI Connector

Working with partner organizations, such as going to the 541 Eatery & Exchange to staff the ERI pop-up desk, was a big part of my summer. I had the chance to meet lots of people who, if it wasn’t for the ERI program and partner organizations, might not have gotten the chance to ride a bike. There are so many barriers to riding a bike, and the ERI program helps eliminate a majority of them. 

We also met with neighbourhood associations at their community meetings, and talked about Bike Share and ERI- there were always passionate discussions about bikes, bike safety, and issues we want to fix in Hamilton. 

Though rides are generally my favorite activity, getting out at events, meeting people, and sharing all we had to offer was also pretty awesome. The smile on someone's face when they learned they could get a $1 a month Pedal Pass, or a free Tandem membership through a partner organization, was the best part (OK, riding the 3-wheeled bike from the ERI office to Gage Park was pretty great as well).

I know that my summer as an ERI Community Connector was just the start of my involvement with the Everyone Rides Initiative, and Hamilton Bike Share.

Be Safe, Be Seen, and Pedal On- and Thanks for Reading!
Mark Anderson, ERI Connector