Social entrepreneurship in action – the evolution of BikeMatchWCN

Members of the Women's Cycling Network.
Members of the Women's Cycling Network.

Back in 2020, a group of women from Leaside and Thorncliffe Park launched the first bike match program in Toronto. (See Leaside Life, November 2020)

The premise was to connect people who had bikes they didn’t need with women looking for a bike to ride. Armed with a Google form, spreadsheet, Women’s Cycling Network volunteers, and assistance from Gateway Bike Hub, more than 75 women received bikes to ride. Running the program was both exhilarating and exhausting! We were onto something good, but how could we make it more effective and more efficient?

2021 – there’s an app for that

Social entrepreneurship brings a start-up mindset to finding solutions to social, cultural or environmental concerns. A chance discussion with serial entrepreneur Ph.D. Ana Rodrigues kick started the next stage of BikeMatchWCN – she proposed an app to do what we were doing manually and volunteered her time and expertise to develop it. “I felt this was a program with significant social impact that helped women gain mobility and freedom and I knew I could use my skills in web development to expand and streamline the program.”

219 people registered; 65 received a bike.

Clearly, we needed more bikes!

Anjum Sultana, a member of the Women's Cycling network and their Bike Match program.
Anjum Sultana, a member of the Women’s Cycling network and their Bike Match program.

2022 – bringing in the partners

How could we leverage what the Women’s Cycling Network had built to get more bikes to more women? In addition to Gateway Bike Hub, Scarborough Cycles and Bikes for Climate joined the program to collect, refurbish and distribute donated bikes, and Ana reworked the app to support the role of the hubs. People were notified when a bike was available for them and to reserve it. Hubs held special pick-up days to connect with bike recipients, and Cycle Toronto joined the team to offer participants cycling education and social rides. As Sonam Vashisth, partnership and events manager at Cycle Toronto, notes, “We are committed to supporting the Women’s Cycling Network and their vision. Access to bikes is a barrier for so many. Yet more people on bikes means more people cycling and seeing the need for better cycling infrastructure.”

421 people registered; 76 bikes were delivered.

2023 – expanding to families

Many women want to ride with their families, so the BikeMatchWCN app was restructured to offer bikes to everyone in the family and provide an online shopping experience. People now choose their bike on their phone from all the bikes in their size. CultureLink Bike Hub joined the program, and Cycle Toronto provided funding for a part-time program coordinator, Learn-to-Ride lessons and community rides. 2023 was our biggest year yet.

523 people registered;104 bikes were delivered.

2024 – what’s next?

Women’s Cycling Network founder Najia Zewari sees BikeMatchWCN as a key tool in fulfilling the group’s vision to assist all women with their desire to bike. “Through this program we are giving women the opportunity to bike with their families, bike for their health and wellbeing, bike for transportation and bike for their freedom.”

This entrepreneurial team is looking ahead to have an even bigger impact in 2024, expanding to more parts of the city and exploring the ability for people to purchase a refurbished bike for donation. If you have a bike to give – we have someone who needs it. Just visit


About Holly Reid 47 Articles
Holly Reid is a recreational road rider and cycling commuter. An advocate for safe cycling, she is a member of Cycle Don Valley Midtown, Cycle Toronto’s advocacy group for Wards 15/16.