© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2022

Putting pedal to the (road) metal

Violet French
thursday mechanic bike 2022
Mechanic Ferdi tinkers on a bike.   Violet French

Everybody knows the benefits of cycling, but one initiative is providing community and social wellbeing

While there's always hot debate about how much council should spend on cycleways in Christchurch (last year the CCC pledged $235million over the next decade); there's no denying the benefits to health and wellbeing, and one initiative is making a huge impact. 

ICEcycles was born from the closure of Kings Cycles, after the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. Their aim is simple: providing people with a mode of transport, and imparting wisdoms on their colourful clients, so they can maintain their bikes on their own.

On a Monday evening volunteers painstakingly dismantle, clean and repair bicycles of all shapes and sizes to cater for the needs of the community. For those needing a new cycle or a fix up on their bike, they can make an appointment at the Stanmore Tiny Shops for a Thursday afternoon session.

Volunteer Jono Brown says it has quite a large impact on people in the area, and he's been giving his time to ICEcycles for six years. He notes that for a lot of their wide variety of clients, it makes life a whole lot easier by turning a 'long tedious walk into a quick bike ride'.  They see all sorts of different people "some who are respectful, and some who aren’t so respectful”. 

The ones who aren't respectful are the ones he says pawn their bikes, and claim them as stolen- a woe known by many of the city's cyclists. Canterbury Police, the CCC and 529 Garage are trying to combat this and launched a bicycle registration app last month. So far the 529 app has around 2000 bikes registered already - generally one bike is flagged as stolen every day.

For one first-timer at ICEcycles, the system's a great way for him to regain mobility and it will have a huge impact on his life. Excited about the prospect of being able to link up with more people and more opportunities which he believes is 'everything', he praises the way the initiative takes money out of the equation and focuses on 'making time and effort more valuable'.

Meg Christie, Active Environments/Active Transport Health Promoter for the CDHB, has been involved with ICEcycles. She had the organisation evaluated, and findings showed when people had access to free bike maintenance and/or an affordable good quality bike, their mental wellbeing was enhanced. She also explains people who engage with active transport for their trip to work have greater preteeism (the opposite of absenteeism) and the 'international research has been duplicated here'.

The cycle lane debate may never be settled, but according to Statistics New Zealand Christchurch lays claim to 5.6% of the population cycling as a main mode of transport. The national average sits at 2%. ICEcycles are continuing to help this number grow. Administrator Kazuko Iwai often has the environment on her mind.

"Now is the time to change, for our ecology, and for our wellbeing."

She adds whenever she has to drive past a cyclist she apologises to them for 'ruining the airspace'. 

For ICEcycles to keep up with demand they need more skilled bicycle mechanics - the need for cost effective transport isn't slowing. Data from Waka Kotahi and Christchurch City Council shows regular cyclist numbers are growing by around 20% a year. 


Brian Butler talks about his bike at a Thursday afternoon ICEcycles session