For Finns bicycling is such a common thing, that it can be hard to imagine that there would be people in Finland, who for one reason or another, have never hopped on a bicycle and experienced the joy and freedom of riding a bike.
The truth is that many people who have moved to Finland have had no experience with riding bicycles. Due to culture, religion or the conditions of their countries of origin, some people may have weak biking skills, or they may not be able to bicycle at all. This is especially true for girls and women.
The Immigrants on Bikes (IoB) project started in February 2018 and after almost 4,5 years we have achieved in training a total of 1400 people in 15 different municipalities all around Finland.
Learning to ride a bicycle as an adult is more difficult and that is why the aim of the project was to offer elementary and basic courses to teach individuals with an immigrant background how to ride a bike and to help them integrate into their new surroundings while appreciating the benefits and joy of biking. The project received funding from STEA (Funding Centre for Social Welfare and Health Organisations) for 2018 – 2020.
The project relied on a clear teaching methodology, proper equipment (smaller size bicycles, folding pedals etc.), motivation and well-trained coaches in a calm but easily accessible environment. It is important to create a safe space where new cyclists can overcome their fears in their own time.
It has been a great journey and we were able to enhance the everyday life of many immigrant women. We have learned what the importance of cycling skill can have to a person’s motility, independence of movement, physical and mental health, empowerment, capacity building and integration. As many of our participants stated, “the feeling of Otherness fades away when I’m biking in the city”.
The IoB project has ended but the work of teaching people living in Finland to bike will continue. You can enquire about future courses in Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo, Tampere and Oulu from the contact list below. If you would like to either have or host courses in your city in the future, please contact Hemmo Rättyä: hemmo.rattya(a)pyoraliitto.fi, 044 236 4825.
Finnish Cyclists’ Federation: Hemmo Rättyä; hemmo.rattya(a)pyoraliitto.fi, 0442364825
Helsinki & Vantaa: Hepo, Taina Renkonen; taina.renkonen(a)hepo.fi
Tampere: Tapo, Joel Lindholm; joel.j.lindholm(a)gmail.com
Oulu: Liikuntapalvelut, Virpi Markuksela: virpi.markuksela(a)ouka.fi