New Brunswick

As easy as riding a bike: how cycling helped Syrian adapt to Canada

Bicycling is helping a Syrian refugee make connections in his adopted home in Moncton, N.B.

Yasser Al Asmi's love of cycling has led to a greater connection with his new community

Yasser Al Asmi fled Syria with his family three years ago and came to Moncton, N.B. in March 2016. (CBC)

Bicycling is helping a Syrian refugee make connections in his adopted home of Moncton.

Yasser Al Asmi walked into La Bikery Cooperative in the spring of 2016 looking for a bicycle to get him back and forth from his new job.

"I needed a better way of transportation than the buses. I prefer the bike because it's free and it's easy to use and I could go to my job conveniently," said Al Asmi.

It was after his initial visit that Al Asmi became more involved in the cycling culture in Moncton and started working at La Bikery.

Krysta Cowling, the executive director of La Bikery, said Al Asmi's fluency in English has helped the cooperative reach out to other newcomers.

"Especially with a program like ours where it's not just like, 'well this is the price you have to pay it,' it was really helpful to have him around," said Cowling.

"He translated some documents into Arabic for our website."

Biking in Al Asmi's blood

Working at the cooperative was a natural fit for Al Asmi as he has always enjoyed bicycles.

"Cycling was something in my city in Syria," said Al Asmi.

"All my friends in my neighbourhood had bikes and we would go on tours and use them every day."

Al Asmi said his time at the cooperative has helped him adapt to his new life in Canada.

"I got a lot of experience about bikes and the people at La Bikery were nice and welcoming, so my experience with them gave me more information about living here and basically any kind of social interaction will help me adapt," said Al Asmi.

Cycling opening new doors

Al Asmi's job at the cooperative led to an invite to speak at ACCESS, the first regional cycling conference in Atlantic Canada, which was organized by La Bikery on May 7.

He spoke at the event's inclusion panel.

"To be honest I was nervous before doing that," said Al Asmi.

"It was easier than I thought, and it was overall a successful experience and many people congratulated me, many people had positive comments over my speaking."

Overall, Al Asmi said the cooperative was an influential part of making Canada home for him.

"If it wasn't for my experience with La Bikery it would be was very helping," said Al Asmi.

With files from Dave Bartlett