Wheels in motion for Tairāwhiti book-a-bike project

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Giving people the opportunity to use an electric bike to discover the benefits of other modes of transport is the aim of the E Peke pilot project.

“A growing number of these sorts of bike library projects here and around the world are proving successful in introducing people to cycling as a great way to get around,” project lead Haimona Ngata says.

“Waka Kotahi NZTA has been supporting a few trials elsewhere so we thought why not here in Tairāwhiti.”

The pilot started in February this year and ends in July.

Each participant gets to use the e-bike for two weeks.

“The participants have been intrigued by e-bikes and wanted to give it a go but didn’t know where to start, or have been apprehensive about buying one straight away as they are relatively expensive,” Ngata said.

“This way, they’re able to ‘try before they buy’ and take an e-bike home for two weeks, free of charge.”

Among the local participants is Shane McClutchie, who lives in Tolaga Bay but works in Gisborne as security at the airport.

He has a base in Childers Rd from which he drives to the airport and back.

He saw a pānui about the e-bike pilot programme and thought it would be a great way to find a different mode of transportation to get to his mahi.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to see how an e-bike would fit into the bigger picture,” he said.

He used the e-bike on the same route as his car, and it worked well.

“When you’re in the car you miss a lot of things, but on a bike, you feel more connected to the space around you.

“I got a sense of environment and got exercise.”

Over the space of two weeks of using the e-bike, he lost 2kg.

“It made me feel really good. I am contemplating getting my own one now,” he said.

Te Poho o Rāwiri Marae has been the base of operations and part of the pilot programme.

A miniature road layout has been painted on the concrete there for tamariki from Te Kōhanga Reo o Te Tihi O Tītīrangi to take part in strider classes.

Strider bikes are used to learn how to steer and focus on balancing.

Whaia Tītīrangi is also using e-bikes while doing conservation mahi around maunga Tītīrangi (Kaiti Hill)

“We proposed the use of e-mountain bikes for their kaimahi to do some of their critical work up and around the maunga,” Ngata said. “This feeds into the carbon reduction narrative by not using petrol-powered vehicles for certain environmental work.”

The allocated funding for the pilot programme ends in July.

“We’ve had such a great response we’re virtually fully booked until July, but come and visit the hub at the marae, try out the learn-to-ride circuit and put your name down to be on standby . . . you might get lucky.”

Ngata is looking to take a proposal to potential funders to grow the programme and keep it going for another six months to a year.

“One of the e-bike library participants was so blown away by the ease of using an e-bike that she went out and purchased her own e-bike after her rental period had ended,” he said.

To keep up to date, follow them on social media – @epeke_tairāwhiti andāwhiti

Matai O’Connor (Ngāti Porou) has been a journalist for five years and kaupapa Māori reporter at the Gisborne Herald for two years.

- NZ Herald