© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

New app hopes to help Christchurch become 'world leader' in cycling

Alice Webb-Liddall

'Sensibel' is a data collection app that may change the game for cycling accessibility in the Garden City.

A new app will let Christchurch cyclists track danger spots in real time, as transport experts call for the city to become a ``global leader’’ in two-wheel travel.

Social enterprise Fabriko is developing the app Sensibel, which is being trialled in the city.

Fabriko’s Carl Pavletich said the app would let cyclists track good and bad points on their journey, crowdsourcing data that could be used to improve cycling safety.

“On one hand it’s based on active citizenship, but also is a bit of a tool to give people a direct involvement in changing the way that we move around a city.”

“These sorts of technologies that allow people to take their city back, or take ownership of their city, I think, are vitally important in terms of the vibrancy of the place.”

Census figures show 7 per cent of people in Christchurch cycle to work, more than the nationwide average of 2.9 per cent, but experts say that number could be much higher.

UC Geography lecturer Simon Kingham said Christchurch should look to places including the Netherlands and Denmark to see what benefits cycling provided.

“Copenhagen relatively recently got to the point where there were more journeys by bicycle than there were by car and that makes a much healthier, happier city.”

The Danish National Travel Survey showed Copenhagen’s cycling culture saved more than $300 million in fuel costs and vehicle maintenance a year.

Kingham said New Zealand had a lack of money for cycleways and safe cycling options.

“We invest a lot of money into transport and the vast majority still goes into roads and for cars. So even now, when we’re investing more money in cycling than we’ve ever invested before, I think it’s still under three per cent.”

The approach to transport funding needed to change, especially as cities focused on a more sustainable future.

“If you get more people walking or cycling you have less need to spend as much money on roads.”

The Christchurch City Council is developing 13 new cycleways connecting the suburbs to the inner city as part of a plan to boost cycle use. 

New Zealand Transport Agency spokesman Jim Harland said the cycleways were working.  

“There’s been a 21 per cent increase in people using cycling to get into the centre of town since some of the networks have started to be built.”

He hoped funding would continue for cycling initiatives, but one problem was “two-thirds of people are interested to cycle but they’re concerned about the safety’’.

He said new cycleways would separate cyclists from busy roads, helping to raise the confidence of beginners.

“Christchurch residents made it clear they wanted the centre of the city to be a more pedestrian friendly, less car dominated, more compact place.” 

Action Bicycle Club spokesman Ken Ching said the Christchurch landscape was almost perfect for cycling. 

“Christchurch is really flat and distances aren’t very far, so you can pretty much do all you need to do on a bike relatively quickly.”

Ching said potential cyclists should not be scared to get out their two-wheelers and make the most of Christchurch’s cycleways. 

“Just give it a go. You’ll notice even in a couple of days or weeks you’ll feel fitter, it’s good for your health, it really helps the environment.”

Harland said cycling would play a big part in Christchurch’s future. 

“As the city fills up again - the centre of the city - then the only way that additional capacity is going to be created is through these cycling networks.”

Kingham said when safe options were in place people would use them. 

“What research has clearly shown us is that if you make people feel safe cycling they will often choose to cycle.”

He wanted more government help to make Christchurch a more sustainable city. 

“Keep investing… there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be a global leader in cycling if we continue to invest.” 


Carl Pavletich from Fabriko explains how Sensibel works.