Ebikes + community power = everyday magic

One of the many great local things to light up your pre-election world

Every pre-election season it’s easy to feel a bit disempowered, as the Heavy Hitters make grand gestures about how they’ll change our country.

It’s worth remembering that whatever the flavour of central government, the most meaningful and tangible changes come locally. Driven by regular people, organising and channelling local energy to improve the places they live.

Here’s one in Wainuiomata that’s lighting up our world this August…

The Hiko Project

This is a truly epic pilot already transforming people’s lives in meaningful ways.

What’s behind it?

Wainuiomata is geographically unique – tucked away from the hustle and bustle (and public transport, hospital etc) of Hutt City in a beautiful valley basin behind a really really steep hill. It’s got about 30% Māori population and an amazing modern marae that’s really staunch on values.

Its urban form, however, is pretty typical of NZ towns mostly built out post-war: single family homes spread thinly around a spread-out town centre, with big (seriously big) wide roads, wide intersections, often narrow footpaths.

Fresh new subdivision in Wainuiomata, 1959

Transport, therefore, is a problem: even just to get around the valley for daily needs you’re pushed to own (and run and service and register) a car and use it for all those little trips. While there are lots of reasons people might choose to have a car, it’s a big household expense if you can’t choose not to. Financially it’s a big burden on many local households (besides meaning people don’t get to move around in the fresh air, seeing others and treading lighter on the taiao).

In this very common, really gnarly problem, what kind of magic could elicit these sorts of statements?!

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and will continue to use [it] as my main form of transport to work in Wellington City and back home in Wainuiomata”.

“[it’s] got me out of the house – I’ve been struggling with my mental health, and I was constantly staying in my room, but HIKO has helped me get out and about. Thank you to the providers and supporters of this programme, it has now given me an outlet and a light to go and do other things”.

“To me […] it’s my health machine that allows me to exercise regularly, pain free and I enjoy the social aspect where I get to ride with like-minded people”.

“Having the opportunity to take part in this project has allowed me to start my day feeling rejuvenated and motivated to take better care of myself for my whānau, especially my children and my mokos”.

The answer?

HIKO! It’s lightning, electricity, energy and more – and a pretty unique pilot

One of the Hiko partners, Healthy Families Lower Hutt, explains it:

The HIKO Pilot Project is a collective approach by Kōkiri Marae, Big Street Bikers and Healthy Families Hutt Valley and local whānau from Wainuiomata, with the aim of testing a new way to address transport equity, within a locality. The project involves lending out 25 e-bikes to adult whānau members and regular bikes for other whānau members, to support the uptake of e-bike use for shorter, active journeys.

We’re embarking on a journey to prototype a Māori-provider led e-bike scheme with the aim of supporting Māori whānau to use e-bikes as a holistic intervention to reduce transport costs, open up transport opportunities, increase physical activity and reduce driving.  

It celebrated 6 months and some great results this year. Read more here and from here – it’s really great!

Image credits:

  • Banner – Hiko Community Bike Rōpu
  • Moohan St subivision Wainuiomata October 1959 – PAColl-9150-11 National Library of NZ. Unknown photographer for the Evening Post
  • Hiko pilot project photo montage – Takiri Mai te Ata Whānau Ora Collective

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