Rachel is second generation Chinese Canadian and currently living in Toronto in the Dish With One Spoon Territory. Rachel is often curious about the modern human conceit in highly developed industrialized nations like Canada. She is interested in unpacking how our unconscious privileges fail to reflect that self-preservation relies on the care of diverse human identities and the larger natural world. With a lens on racial equity and environmental conservation, Rachel seeks to understand collaborative survival as a way to transform life beyond capitalism and industrialism. Through the Bike Brigade, she attempts to use the power of mutual aid and active transportation to address poverty and racial inequity in Toronto.
The Bike Brigade emerged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a mutual aid grassroots organization in Toronto. We pair volunteer cyclists with community organizations that serve isolated, vulnerable people, seniors and health care providers to deliver essential supplies, such as hot meals, groceries and medical supplies.
We are a community of 500+ volunteer bikers and offer our delivery services free for equity-seeking groups across Toronto, including FoodShare, Black Lives Matter TO, Toronto Drop-in Network, Parkdale People's Economy and the People’s Pantry. Between March and September 2020, we have replaced cars and trucks in delivering $16,000 worth of groceries, 2,000 food boxes, and 1,200 hot meals.
It is a privilege to be stepping into the role of Executive Director of the Bike Brigade – I am excited to work with Dave and our new Board of Directors. Through this mentorship programme, my goal is to develop and implement a Climate Action Plan for the Bike Brigade to track and report on reduced GHG emissions. Other key elements of this plan include bike infrastructure in the city, biker rights and safety, and access to biking for BIPOC communities. We look forward to continuing our efforts long-term to support our community partners and align these efforts with other cities.
The Bike Brigade was named and founded by my friend Dave Shellnutt. Dave started the Bike Brigade in March when the stay-home measures started coming into effect. Dave is a human rights and personal injury lawyer – his law firm goes by ‘The Biking Lawyer’. As the name assumes, Dave is also a very passionate Toronto cyclist! His huge network of bike advocates and organizations have all really gravitated to the Bike Brigade.
MOTIVATION FOR AND COMMITMENT TO CREATING A BETTER AND MORE SUSTAINABLE PLANET
Just in the two years I was living in Solomon Islands, 4 nearby islands vanished under water, displacing these communities from their homes. The disproportionate impact of climate change on South Pacific islanders is real and happening right now. After returning to Canada, I could see that the disproportionate impact of climate change also extended to racialized communities in the City of Toronto – in my own backyard. I think about newcomers and language barriers when reading English/French emergency alerts, low-income communities situated in flood-prone areas, and the list goes on. We can do better.