October 16, 2020
The team at Indie has been speaking with Tour Guides around the world over the last 8 months to help understand the state of our industry and its impact on the most front line workers - Tour Guides! Come back for more profiles of guides and email us to nominate yourself to be profiled!
This week, we are proud to profile Wendy Huisman, the Founder of Pedal Toronto. Pedal Toronto offers guided private and group cycling tours (all COVID certified safe!) and outlines safe routes through Toronto for both visitors and residents. Her tours have been a hit with visitors but you may be surprised to know that Wendy has a brisk business in helping Torontonians learn about the hidden gems in their city and more recently has launched cycling tours to teach anxious cyclists how to navigate traffic responsibly.
Q: Tell us how business has been affected by the lockdown.
Wendy - well it’s been slow as you would expect. I was able to host a few expats who are living here in Toronto and the lockdown allowed them time to finally explore the city. Outside of a few cases like that, it has been really slow.
Q: I’ve been speaking with a few other guides here in Toronto and they all mentioned that Torontonians as a group don't tend to explore our own city. Why do you think that is the case?
Wendy - Yeah, definitely the case. I'm not sure why that is either. It's interesting. And I think this summer in particular, if you had a place to escape to, you went! . So everybody went to the cottage and stayed there. I do find it peculiar though given we have such a strong cycling culture in Toronto nearly year round that more people wouldn’t give cycling tours a try.
Q: I was glad to hear that you were - slowly but surely - starting to get some interest earlier this fall in private group cycling tours. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Wendy - I'm pivoting a little bit to offer like tours for locals with a twist on how to ride in the city. Many people don’t realize that we put in over 50 kms of new bike lanes this summer. We are thinking of offering tours to show people how to do everyday things like how to commute to work and how to take your kids on a bike ride through the city.
Q: Has your tour changed in terms of safety and distancing?
Wendy - I'm concerned about it, but we don't go indoors anywhere. And when we stop and talk, I'll put a mask on. Truthfully because we ask our guests to keep two bike lengths between everybody and anybody on the tour is within their own little bubble it seems to be working out well. So it's really just me they are staying away from, which is easy enough to do on a bike.
Q: What made you want to start Pedal Toronto?
Wendy - My family is Dutch so I definitely grew up loving cycling. More recently, I’m a big fan of indoor cycling and even teach spinning classes myself. In fact, my very first job was as a tour guide on a boat in the harbor. So when I was thinking about starting a company I initially thought I was going to open a spinning studio! Thankfully I ended up outside! What better way to spend a day than to show people my city on a bike. It's really the best job. All the people I meet, all the little associations I've made, you know, with the water taxi or the restaurants on the island I hope it's part of the future, right? We should be looking at ecotourism and better ways to travel and explore.
Q: Last Question -- when you're able to plan a new tour to offer guests, what part of the undiscovered Toronto would you highlight?
Wendy - I’m working with Chef Scott and we had just started putting together a food tour by neighborhood without hitting the obvious ones that everyone knows about and tying together a few neighbourhoods that you could tour on a bike. Leslieville was on the list as was a great BBQ place down on Cherry Beach. We really want to get people oriented to places out of the core and see the great food places and bike routes in East and West Toronto.
Thanks to Wendy and the team at Pedal Toronto. Check them out if you are interested in seeing a different part of Toronto! Don't forget - you can nominate yourself or a guide you know to be profiled by emailing us.