Categories: Giveaways

Wellington charity hits speed with 2000th bike giveaway

Every Wednesday evening on an empty lot in Wellington’s Newtown, two unassuming shipping containers are transformed into a bustling bike repair shop and EkeRua Rebicycle volunteers adjust the brakes and replace rusted chains on donated bikes.

The beaming smile says it all. Nareem has just collected his new bike, helmet and lock – all free – and he’s delighted.

Nareem and his wife are recent arrivals from Pakistan, and they don’t have a car or the means to buy a bicycle.

“Normally, when I go grocery shopping, I have a lot of problems. [Now that I’ve got] my push bike, it will be easy to carry my groceries so I’m really excited to get this one. My first vehicle in New Zealand,” said Nareem.

His bike is one of 2,000 donated by the community that the charity has fixed and re-homed to former refugees, families struggling with the costs of living and others in need over the past six years.

The reactions of people picking up their new bikes is one of the rewards that keeps EkeRua Rebike Chair Hilleke Townsend and the other volunteers coming every week.

“It means a lot to people to have that transportation, or that freedom to be able to travel, and we’ve had very heartfelt messages,” Townsend said.

She has seen the access to opportunities that bicycles can bring to people’s lives, especially the families of former refugees.

“We know that when people first arrive in New Zealand, they often come with nothing more than a suitcase full of clothes. And it takes them a while to get their driver’s license.

“So it’s very important that children can go to school, and it’s also important that adults can go to language classes, to start being part of their community.”

EkeRua started with a dozen donated bikes in Townsend’s garage, obtained through a Facebook call and fixed up by friends, and grew from there.

The bikes are now donated by the public through various local bike shops, and have recently moved into their new home of two large shipping containers, one of which is filled with over 60 bikes waiting to be recycled in Any moment.

Giving away his 2000th bike is a major milestone and one that Townsend believes is a world record.

When 1News visited the workshop, there were at least nine mechanics working on a steady stream of bikes, including Stephen Coppard, who has volunteered with EkeRua for five years.

Coppard said he enjoys community outreach and resurrecting old bikes,

“I feel a sense of accomplishment taking an old bike that someone has discarded and giving it new life.”

EkeRua has even bigger initiatives underway. They have just received a grant from the Waka Kotahi Innovation Fund for their Wheel Change e-bike ‘lease-to-buy’ program to help low-income people access e-bikes, an ideal option for the wind and hills of Wellington.

They also have a library of electric cargo bikes, so families can borrow a cargo bike for a few weeks to see if it fits their lifestyle before committing to such a big purchase.

Townsend believes things are looking up for cycling in Wellington.

“Wellington’s infrastructure is really improving and we’re seeing a lot more people on bikes, a lot more parents with kids, which is amazing to see.”

In addition to the obvious climate and sustainability benefits that increased cycling brings to the community, Townsend wants to reduce “transportation poverty,” when the cost of transportation is a barrier to living a full and happy life.

“Everyone should be able to access work or education, social events or simply be able to run errands without it being a significant burden on them. And when the cost of transportation is so expensive that you have to make sacrifices in other areas of your life, that’s a real problem.”

It’s a problem that Townsend and EkeRua staff and volunteers are working to change, one bike at a time.


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