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Pedal power fills empty petrol station

Rebicycle co-ordinator Tessa Coppard with a container that houses bikes destined to cycle the Wellington region’s streets. Most of them still need work but a few have “good to go” labels on them.
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A former petrol station in Newtown has been filled with pedal power. It is now the home of Rebicycle, a trust that upcycles donated bikes to give away.

Since the trust was established two years ago more than 300 bikes have been repaired and given away. About two-thirds have gone to refugee families.

Recently Rebicycle was named a finalist in the community initiative category of the Love Cycling Regional Awards.

Rebicycle began in the winter of 2016 in the garage of Hilleke and Mike Townsend’s home. They were joined by friends Leah Murphy and James Burgess.

The aim was to gather up donated bikes, get them into safe, working order and give them away.

A charitable trust was established with Hilleke, Mike, Leah and James as the trustees.

Rebicycle co-ordinator Tessa Coppard with the volunteers’ “to do” list that begins with triage followed by inspect, fix, check and deliver in the new workshop space.

In May 2017 Tessa Coppard took on the co-ordinator’s role, and a grant from the Nikau Foundation enabled her to be paid, until recently, for five hours a week for six months.

“They [the trustees] saw a need and very quickly it grew much faster than anyone imagined it would,” Tessa says.

Tessa’s role is to oversee the whole process from offers of donated bikes through to delivery.

Each week six to ten bikes are donated. They come in all types, sizes and conditions.

Some are in perfect condition.

It is amazing, people’s generosity,” she says.

So far Rebicycle has received 550 bikes. Some have been used for parts. About 350 have been repaired and given away and a further 30 kept for a small, free bike library.

Tessa says those bikes are often loaned to schools during cycle training or to people who are getting into cycling but aren’t able to buy a bike yet. Parents on a tight budget can borrow a bike for their child and then swap it for a bigger one when their child grows.

The use of the Newtown space has been made possible by the generosity of the site owners, the ongoing support of Martin Hanley from Newtown Festival and from Wellington City Council.

A keen cyclist herself, Tessa learned to ride in London when she was a university student. She uses a bike to get around Wellington and has paid work as a cycle skills instructor for Pedal Ready. She is also a piano teacher.

Tessa also looks for volunteers to work on the bikes. The Rebicycle trust works jointly with Mechanical Tempest, a group of volunteers who support people to learn how to fix up bikes. That group shares the Riddiford Street site with Rebicycle.

People these days often don’t know how to fix their own bikes like they used to. Our volunteers are able to take the time to teach these skills to new bike owners.”

Volunteers work on donated bikes at Rebicycle’s Newtown base.

Taking inquiries for bikes is also part of Tessa’s role.

Bikes to refugees

She estimates two-thirds of the bikes go to resettled refugees with the rest to the general public on a need basis.

Contact usually comes via the Red Cross volunteers who work with the refugees. Some of the families are large and need several bikes.

Marie and her two sons, Gad and Matthew, from Naenae, Lower Hutt, were thrilled to receive this special Easter gift.

Wellington City Council also helps them with provision of helmets.

There is a particular need for more step through (the traditional design of a woman’s bike) bicycles suitable for a large child or small adult.

Improving riding skills

Rebicycle also has a “bike rodeo” which is a portable series of ramps, obstacles and seesaws to develop riding skills and show children how to have fun on wheels. It is taken to school events and neighbourhood gatherings.

Rebicycle can also organise an hour-long free lesson for people who need help learning to ride.

Sponsors who have helped Rebicyle include Thankyou Charitable Trust, Wellington City Council, Nikau and Tindall Foundations, Switched On Bikes and Tranzit Coachlines.

The organisation has just bought a trailer for transporting bikes and is looking for funding or sponsors for it.

Rebicycle is at 230 Riddiford Street (opposite Donald McLean Street) in Newtown. Volunteers are on site from 6-8pm on Wednesdays for drop-offs and inquiries.

There are five other drop off points in Wellington. Drop offs don’t need to be pre-arranged but donors need to be sure it is during opening hours.

These are:

The Sustainability Trust, 2 Forresters Lane off Tory Street

Burkes Cycles, 16 Coutts Street, Kilbirnie

iRIDE, 242 Thorndon Quay

Bicycle Junction, 1 Marion Street off Ghuznee Street

Mud Cycles, 424 Karori Road

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More information:

For more information on Rebicycle see their website rebicycle.nz/ or facebook

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