The wheels are turn­ing on a cam­paign to help Christchurch re­claim the ti­tle of “Cy­cle City”.

North & South - - In This Issue -

Christchurch is ready to re­claim the ti­tle of Cy­cle City.

When Cata­rina Gu­tier­rez ar­rived in Christchurch in 2014 from the United States, her first stop was to look for a bike. It didn’t have to be new, it didn’t have to be fancy, but it did need to get her around the city.

She found what she was af­ter at RAD Bikes (short for Re­cy­cle-a-dunger), and is now a vol­un­teer me­chanic and co- or­di­na­tor with the not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, which helps get peo­ple rolling by re­ju­ve­nat­ing and re­cy­cling old rides. “It’s built up a re­ally cool com­mu­nity around bikes,” she says.

Two-wheel­ers have al­ways been part of the cul­ture in Christchurch, which ri­valled Copen­hagen as a cy­cling city in the 50s and 60s but has been grad­u­ally los­ing trac­tion ever since. A keen cy­clist her­self, Gu­tier­rez won­dered what had changed – and what it would take to get peo­ple back on their bikes. So she set up Cy­cle Christchurch to pro­mote cy­cling for the fun of it and bring a lit­tle di­ver­sity to the scene.

One of the group’s reg­u­lar events is “Bikes, Beers and Ban­ter”, where women, men and en­tire fam­i­lies turn up at a lo­cal pub. “It’s a plat­form for peo­ple to be in­volved in cy­cling; a space to hang out and talk about bikes,” says Gu­tier­rez, who also or­gan­ised the Slow Roll Bike Ride from the cen­tral city to the Nos­tal­gia Fes­ti­val at Fer­rymead Her­itage Park on March 4.

In 2015, Cy­cle Christchurch and RAD Bikes joined forces to take over the mo­bile Cy­cle-pow­ered Cinema. Ini­tially set up by Gap Filler af­ter the earth­quakes, the cinema runs on pedal power, with rid­ers bring­ing their own bikes to drive the bat­teryrun pro­jec­tor and sound sys­tem. The kit has since trav­elled the coun­try, pow­er­ing stage lights at Beer­vana in Welling­ton, light-sculp­ture in­stal­la­tions at Festa in Christchurch, and even charg­ing mo­bile phones.

Gu­tier­rez works as a start-up ac­ti­va­tor men­tor­ing small busi­nesses at the Min­istry of Awe­some, an ini­tia­tive set up “to make things hap­pen” in post- quake Christchurch. When it comes to get­ting around the city, she de­scribes her ap­proach as “multi-modal”, pre­fer­ring a mix of cy­cling and bus­ing. Each of her five bikes serves a dif­fer­ent pur­pose, from off-road to cruis­ing; she built one of them her­self to ride the West Coast Wilder­ness Trail.

Late last year, Gu­tier­rez fa­cil­i­tated a cou­ple of work­shops in Detroit at Bike!bike!, an an­nual international gath­er­ing for those in­volved in lo­cal projects and col­lec­tives. She hopes to work with the Christchurch City Coun­cil to cre­ate more com­mu­nity- ori­ented bike events here – and with 13 new ma­jor cy­cle routes to be built over the next seven years, at an es­ti­mated cost of $156 mil­lion, she be­lieves the time is ripe for a strong cy­cling cul­ture to re- emerge in the city.

“My big mis­sion is to make Christchurch the cy­cling cap­i­tal of New Zealand,” she says. “And New Zealand the cy­cling cap­i­tal of the world.” RACHEL SMITH

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