The local safety committee has changed over more than 25 years since it was formed, but what hasn’t changed is its goal of protecting migrant farm workers who depend on bicycles for transportation.
Each year for almost three decades the committee, originally organized as a liaison with the Niagara Regional Police, has held an event the Sunday after the May long weekend to teach bicycle safety to the men and women who come to Niagara-on-the-Lake each year to work on local farms.
This year, it’s being organized by a partnership between what is now the NOTL Community Safety Committee, and the Niagara Migrant Workers Interest Group.
It’s become a social gathering for the workers, who are given a barbecued dinner, and provided with entertainment by Enlace, a group of Spanish dancers who come from Toronto every year to perform in the Centennial Arena.
But the focus of the event is bike safety, which is how Mark Gaudet got involved. He and Terry Weiner, with a group of volunteers, collect and restore bikes for farm workers in the former Virgil Public School, putting used, donated bikes through a 50-point check to make them roadworthy.
Gaudet calls it the 3 R’s for bikes — they refurbish bikes for safety, they recycle in that bikes too damaged to be fixed are stripped to recoup useable parts, and they repair the bikes for an increasing number of farmworkers who bring in their own bikes for maintenance.
“I think we have more parts on hand than any bike store,” says Gaudet.
They gladly accept donations of used bikes, and sometimes when farm workers come for repairs, they trade up to one of the better quality bikes, donating their old ones to be refurbished.
The volunteer organization, Bikes for Farmworkers, even keeps a “small fleet” of loaners for the workers to use for a week if repairs can’t be done on the spot and they have to leave their bikes, Gaudet says.
Bikes for Farmworkers will set up four repair stations at the event Sunday, and volunteers “will do what we can” to ensure any bikes brought to the rodeo leave in safe and roadworthy condition, says Gaudet.
There are 35 “great bikes” and other prizes to be won, plus two new bikes donated by the Town of NOTL for its safety committee to give away.
The annual migrant workers bike and safety rodeo is this Sunday, May 26, at the Centennial Arena in Virgil, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
To donate a used bike, call Gaudet at 289-783-1684.