toronto bike brigade

This group of cyclists in Toronto delivers groceries and food to those in need

David Shellnutt knew just who to recruit when he was looking to help those most vulnerable people during the initial outbreak of the pandemic in March.

"It was becoming clear that the city was going to be locked down, and that people, especially seniors, people with immunodeficiencies, and other vulnerable folks were going to be pretty much isolated," Shellnutt told blogTO.

"I knew that cyclists are a very pro-community, pro-Toronto group of people. We attend city planning meetings on what colour of paint they're going to use on the road on a normal day, so I knew in a period of crisis, those people could be relied upon."

Working as a lawyer who represents cyclists across the city, Shellnutt, the self-described 'Biking Lawyer' used his connections to start the Toronto Bike Brigade.

The group of cyclists, which has now grown to nearly 800 volunteers, paired with community organizations that were serving vulnerable individuals in the city to help with deliveries of essentials like groceries and food boxes. 

"Already in early March, multiple organizations like the Parkdale People's Economy, and different mutual aid communities, were already doing some incredible work," says Shellnutt.

"I thought, 'How can I support these [organizations] and how can cyclists support them?' Providing a volunteer logistics arm that could ferry food and supplies to isolated people safely was something that we could do." 

Shellnutt and his army of cyclists work with nearly 20 different partners including Parkdale People's Economy, FoodShare, and The People's Pantry.

The deliveries have not stopped with the cold weather. If anything, Shellnutt says the demand for their services has increased with the second lockdown.

"This Saturday, 111 boxes were delivered across Toronto by 61 cyclists for a total of 476 kilometres. And it was a casual -7 without the wind chill," he says.

"And every Saturday at the FoodShare rides, there are new riders. There were a dozen new cyclists that signed up just this past week." 

Shellnutt says the number of organizations they're working with is also increasing with new partners being added every week. 

"We want to support these groups that are doing such heavy lifting for our communities during the pandemic. We're just helping them do incredible work." 

Lead photo by

David Shellnutt

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