The call went out for any school-aged child in Ōtaki who wanted a bike to turn up at the Ōtaki Skate Park over the weekend.

Energise Ōtaki's Bike Space project was giving away bikes free to give children the chance to bike to school, to get them energised and an opportunity to get off the tablets, go outside and enjoy the sun over the summer.

"The idea behind it is so kids can ride to school, but it's also summer and we are blessed in Ōtaki to have a great skate park, and the pump track at Haruatai and also at Ōtaki Primary to use," Energise Ōtaki coordinator Sara Velasquez said.

The free bikes also came with helmets from an anonymous donor.
The free bikes also came with helmets from an anonymous donor.

Visiting local schools last year to get an estimate of how many people cycled to school, Energise Ōtaki estimated about six to eight per cent of students cycled to school.

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While those numbers are up on the national average, according to NZTA's Bike Ready statistics, in New Zealand in 1990 12 per cent of journeys to primary and intermediate schools were by bike and 19 per cent of journeys to high school were by bike.

Statistics from 2014 found two per cent of journeys to primary and intermediate school were by bike, with three per cent of journeys to high school were by bike.

Keen to increase these numbers in a town where wide, quiet streets make cycling to school very manageable, Energise Ōtaki decided to do something similar to the Paekākāriki Bike Library.

Over 50 bikes at the Ōtaki Skate Park.
Over 50 bikes at the Ōtaki Skate Park.

"We have based our project on the Paekākāriki Bike library which hires out bikes for students to use for a year for a small fee.

"They have a slick operation and have given us a number of bikes, as have members of the community."

Using a slightly different model the Ōtaki Bike Space is giving the bikes away free.

"We gave away a number last year at an event we held with Bike Ready Wellington and it's been awesome because I've seen families who all got bikes from us in October riding them around town.

"People have been super kind donating them and have also received them well, saying 'this is such a blessing to us, this is what we want'."

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Thanks to Phil Byrne, a volunteer from Volunteer Kāpiti, Ōtaki Bike Space has taken the donated bikes, fixed them up, and is giving them back to the community.

Phil Byrne fixing up a bike for Otaki Bike Space. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Phil Byrne fixing up a bike for Otaki Bike Space. Photo / Rosalie Willis

"It's a lost art being able to do small fixes like taking off grips and repairing chains," Sara said.

"It shows the throwaway society we are now in.

"We want to run workshops and empower people to look after their bike themselves."

Phil has been volunteering his time getting the bikes up to scratch, fixing chains, removing rust, oiling them up and doing all he can to get the bikes in top shape.

Thanks to the power of social media, an anonymous donor saw a post online about the project and donated 30 helmets which arrived on Friday just in time to be given out with the bikes.

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The bike space has been around for three years but they are hoping this event will get the project off the ground and become a regular event.

"One person who came to see us in October had a bike with training wheels he had grown out of and he came and traded it in.

"That's what we want to continue to happen, for people to trade old bikes in they no longer want and make this project more sustainable.

"We have a few bikes for grownups and would love a koha if they can, but at the stage it is completely free for children."