News | 8 November 2022
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E-cargo bike trial a game changer for local family

Shopping and ferrying two pre-schoolers around Wellington without owning a car works well for Julia Pearce and James Douglas who live in Newtown.

Two kids on the back of a bike.

Neither have ever owned a car and previously didn’t own bikes in Wellington either.  

Julia says travelling in low or zero carbon ways as often as possible fits with her family’s views. 

“We all need to do our part and reduce emissions.” 

They bused and walked most places until early last year when an opportunity came up through their childcare centre to trial an e-cargo bike for a few days.  The trial, run by bike shop Bicycle Junction in collaboration with Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council, resulted in big and beneficial changes in the way they get around. 

They were able to buy one of the trial bikes at a discounted price and have since bought a second e-bike. 

“It was a game changer for us. We had been thinking about whether a bike might be a good option, so the trial came at a good time. It allowed us to give it a go and get our confidence up," says Julia.

Family cycling down Cobham Drive.

They regularly use routes that have already been improved as part of Wellington City Council’s plan to develop a citywide network of safe bike routes and connections, says Julia.

“Before getting our bike, I didn’t have a high level of confidence on the road, so any separated bike lanes are an advantage and much appreciated. They increase my level of comfort. Cobham Drive and the uphill separated lane on Crawford Road are excellent. 

"We already use the new sections of bike lanes along Riddiford Street past the hospital and the completed route to the city will make a big difference. It’s something people really do appreciate. Biking in traffic is a big concern for a lot of people, though generally I do find most drivers are quite considerate and careful." 

She says as working parents, having the bikes is making a big difference.   

“Getting to work in the city by bus had been taking about 40 to 45 minutes. That became a 15-minute bike ride. 

"We save on public transport costs too – the $40 a week previously spent on buses can instead be set aside to pay for other things, including car share vehicles when we need them.  We have easy access to Mevo cars where we live, so that’s a good option if we need it. Over the past month, we have probably used one on about three occasions," Julia adds.
Prior to moving to Newtown about five years ago, they lived in the central city where they say a car was not very useful. When they moved out of the CBD, they chose the suburb because of the good public transport and because it is a walkable distance from the city. 

“We had thought we might get a car but then thought let’s see how we go without one. When I was at home with our first child, by-in-large I got around walking with the buggy, or by bus. We still walk a lot if we are just going short distances in Newtown, but when I take the children over to a swimming lesson at Kilbirnie for instance, I’ll pop on the bike.” 

Family on bikes on Cobham Drive.

Julia says they routinely get a week’s worth of shopping by bike.  

“We can take off the child seat and attach the saddle bags. We also use it to pick up produce from the vege market in Newtown on a Saturday.” 

She says there’s a myth that people who bike don’t stop or spend money in shops.  

“On the contrary, I would observe that it’s easier to stop on my bike on the way home for things like fruit, vegetables, milk and ingredients for dinner than it is in a car. You can easily pull up, and pop quickly in and out of a shop. We definitely do this and think there’s a real opportunity for businesses along the planned bike routes because there is already a lot of people travelling this way, and that’s only going to continue.” 

When the family goes on holiday, or to visit family in other places, they usually either fly or hire a rental car. 

“A while back we thought about the possibility of buying a car and worked out that the cost of buying just didn’t stack up against hiring a car several times each year. We would be needing to be spending over $7,500 on car rentals each year.” 

Anyone interested in trialling an e-bike can chat with local bike shops to see what’s possible. Bicycle Junction has about 10 different types of cargo e-bikes in their test ride fleet and say two to three families a week book an extended cargo bike test ride.