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I have loved cycling for as long as I can remember. Growing up in a rural area, riding my bike was among my favorite recreational activities, and, as it is for many children, gave me my first taste of independence and the freedom to move myself around. This passion has found an outlet in my work as a bicycle mechanic and owner of Black Arrow Cycles, Kitchener Waterloo’s newest bicycle shop.
When I moved to Waterloo in 2000 to begin my undergraduate degree in Environment and Resource Studies (ERS) at UWaterloo, my bicycle quickly became my primary mode of transportation, and I rode from home to class, around campus, to meet friends, and recreationally.
A number of the ERS classes I took during my undergrad focused on the connections between human activities and their environmental impacts, and it was during my time in the program that I began to see my bicycle not just as a mode of transportation, but also a symbol of what our environments could look like if we designed them to be sustainable and less reliant on fossil fuel. The lessons we were learning and discussing in lectures and seminars were reinforced by a number of my professors. Prof Greg Michalenko, in particular, was especially supportive of students who were looking for ways to put their learnings from their studies into practice in their day to day lives.
As a student, I also became very involved in a number of the projects run by the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG), which until recently was hosted by the university. These included advocacy efforts related to sustainable transportation, ranging from an (at the time unsuccessful) campaign for public transit access to be included in student cards, to bicycle infrastructure development campaigns. WPIRG played a huge role in my development as a student and citizen, as I know it did for many fellow students.
It was with these experiences in mind, an Environment and Resource Studies degree, and a Bachelor’s degree in Education in hand, I ended up working as the coordinator of a local community bike shop in Kitchener called Recycle Cycles. The shop, actually born at UWaterloo as a project of WPIRG, is one of the projects currently run by The Working Centre, a social development organization located in Kitchener. This brought together my interests of working with youth, working with my hands, my experience as a teacher, and my longstanding interest in the environment.
While my path after studying at the University of Waterloo took me into the fields of education, bicycle mechanics, and social development work in the downtown core, bicycles have continued to be both my primary mode of transportation and recreation. This is why I decided to try my hand at opening my own bicycle shop earlier this year.
Black Arrow Cycles has a little bit of everything bicycle-related, but focuses mostly on commuter and urban style bicycles, parts and accessories, and service. The lessons I learned about urban planning and sustainable transportation during my time as a student at UWaterloo are still with me, and I still believe, as I did then, that bicycles are often the best and most environmentally friendly way to get around, especially in urban centres. In creating a space that supports people in using bicycles both as a viable mode of transportation and an accessible form of recreation, I hope I am able, in some small way, to put some of the lessons I learned 15 years ago into practice.