Residents and visitors of Wellington will soon be able to pick up a bike and ride around the capital without it costing them a cent.
Volunteers at the Aro Valley Community Centre have developed Wunderbike, a community bike-sharing programme similar to the white bikes in France or yellow bikes in Amsterdam.
The group's Pledge Me campaign met its target in five days in December and continues to receive pledges towards the scheme, which will run on the basis of people registering and borrowing a bike for free for up to one week.
Sylvie Froncek, a Wunderbike organiser, says the idea is to promote cycling by making it accessible to everyone.
"We used to have the community bike shop and we would lend some out to people but they went missing and weren't well maintained so it stopped," Froncek says.
"One of the mechanics thought it would be cool to get the bike-sharing thing going again because people come by all the time asking if they can be lent a bike."
Froncek, who came to live in Wellington from America last year, says she also hopes Wunderbike will give people a chance to give cycling a go without making the investment of purchasing a bike, helping the cycling community to widen and become more accepted.
"It's also getting people who otherwise wouldn't have a chance to try it out to do so, and cycling really is the best way to see Wellington."
Froncek's philosophy is that cycling can truly help people to be happy and healthy, with emotional, physical and mental benefits, she says.
Jesse Doud, also a Wunderbike organiser, says he hopes the scheme will particularly help visitors to Wellington.
"The first thing I look for in a new city is how am I going to get a bike so I can get around and it makes me happy to think people can now think: 'I'll go get a Wunderbike'."
Doud helped to found Bike Farm in Portland, US, and Bike Kitchen in Adelaide. He says he feels Wellington is becoming a better place to cycle and he hopes ventures like Wunderbike will help move cycling into becoming more of a normal part of Wellington life.
Froncek says that Wunderbike also promotes safe cycling, providing helmets, lights and teaching new cyclists how to ride safely and successfully around the city.
Wunderbike's launch at the Aro Valley Community Centre will be in February but a date has not yet been set. See facebook.com/WellingtonWunderbike for updates and more information.
- The Dominion Post
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