'Getting more bums on bikes' is the goal of Big Street Bikers. The company started in 2017 with a plan to import more e-bikes into New Zealand, but since then, have realised that there's more work to be done to get people onto two wheels.
"It's pointless putting thousands of bikes on the road if the infrastructure isn't there to support cyclists," says Andrew Charlesworth, one of three co-founders behind Big Street Bikers. "We've been trying to figure out how we can make cycling more affordable and accessible. Our ultimate goal is to normalise cycling."
As part of their work, Big Street Bikers has launched Locky Docks, free to use secure parking and charging docks in convenient central city and suburban locations. They provide cyclists (and scooterists) with peace of mind that their bikes, e-bikes or scooters are safe and secure.
"We're trying to create a virtuous circle," says Charlesworth. "The better the infrastructure, the more cyclists will use it. The more people cycling, the more it normalises the behaviour. We want to help change the attitudes of drivers towards cyclists and make it safer and more accessible for everyone."
Big Street Bikers supplies and installs Locky Docks free of charge. They're also free for cyclists to use, stylish, and simple to operate.
The team knew that one of the bigger barriers stopping car commuters from switching to the cycle was safety – both the security of their bike and safe cycle routes. To overcome those concerns, Locky Docks provide cycle maps and information about safe cycling routes, while the Locky Dock itself has a reinforced steel arm that secures the wheel and bike frame (or even a scooter or long board). The technology has been around for 10 years across Europe — and there's never been a theft.
The first Locky Docks in New Zealand were trialled in Christchurch in 2020, where there are now 12 locations. Auckland Council has approved the first wave of Locky Docks in the City of Sails, including at spots in Mount Eden, Kingsland, Wynyard Quarter, and Orakei.
Wellington's first Locky Dock was unveiled by Minister of Transport Michael Wood this month at the corner of Willis Street and Ghuznee Street, with more to come — including the first solar-powered Locky Dock Parklet (a smaller version of the Locky Dock), co-funded by EECA, which will be installed in the civic centre of Paraparaumu with Kapiti Coast District Council.
"We know that one of the factors in e-bike uptake and regular usage is anxiety around security," says EECA Transport Manager Richard Briggs. "Knowing that your bike is safely locked up helps provide the confidence to leave the car at home."
Right now, Big Street Bikers are working on rolling out Locky Docks in the main urban centres nationwide.
"We've got demand right around the country from councils, private property owners and bikers," says Charlesworth. "Almost every council in the country has a cycleway plan and many organisations have a sustainability plan to encourage alternative forms of transport. Locky Docks make it much more likely that people will use bikes and cycleways."
Big Street Bikers was born out of the founders' frustration with the daily commute and the need for a more positive lifestyle.
"Getting to and from work in Auckland was such a hassle and a massive time waster," explains Charlesworth. "I thought to myself: 'This is madness, there has to be a better way.'"
So Charlesworth jumped on his bike and caught a ferry to the city. He got to know a crew of cyclists doing the same thing and they started talking about what they could do to make it easier for cyclists. Those casual conversations turned into something more concrete over a beer with a couple of mates, Cleve Cameron and Matt Weavers.
"We all wanted to do something that had a positive impact from a wellbeing, social and environmental perspective," he says. "E-bikes came on the market around the same time and almost overnight they made commuting by bike much more accessible. All of us realised the potential for mass adoption."
Apart from the environmental angle, Charlesworth appreciated the benefits of daily exercise.
"Jumping on your bike is a great way to destress at the end of the day," he says. "There's nothing like a burn on the bike to clear the mind and reset the stress levels and there's plenty of research that shows bike commuters to be the happiest bunch on the roads."
If we can convert the big streets to bike and pedestrian friendly zones, that will pave the way for cycle friendly cities and make cycling to work a no-brainer.
The number of e-bikes and e-scooters imported into New Zealand in 2019 hit a record high of 65,000, a huge jump from 47,000 in 2018 and 23,000 in 2017. While individuals have been quick to embrace e-bikes, Big Street Bikers realised that buy-in from the government, local councils, and corporates was crucial.
"The intent to deliver more cycle friendly infrastructure is there. Our mission is to help deliver practical solutions to government and councils to shift modes of transport, lower carbon emissions and reduce congestion.
"The name Big Street Bikers reflects our ambition that every big street in every town in the country will be bike friendly. If we can convert the big streets to bike and pedestrian friendly zones, that will pave the way for cycle friendly cities and make cycling to work a no-brainer."
"The aim is to shift the way people think," says Charlesworth. "Instead of seeing it as a sacrifice to give up your car or to spend your hard-earned money on an e-bike, it's about rethinking the choices you make. Some people will never give up their cars and we respect that. But by making it easier for the people who are considering it, we can facilitate change."