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Getting home: Cycling Christchurch's dark streets

Monday 28th July 2014

Drive or be driven, take the bus or your bike, or simply by foot – every night, we weigh up time, money and convenience in deciding how we get home.

In a series of videos, young New Zealanders from across the country take us on their typical route home – and share the risks they assess along the way.

There’s plenty T’Nealle Joie, 24, likes about cycling.

As co-owner of The Darkroom, a bar and music venue in the red zone, she often finishes work late, and appreciates the flexibility that a bike affords her. “Bikes are really cheap and the maintenance is really low. It takes up no room in your house, and you don’t need a garage; you can just park it in your kitchen or wherever.”

With its flat geography and sprawling suburbs, Christchurch is made for cycling in a way that, say, Wellington isn’t. Advocacy group Spokes Canterbury estimates about 15,000 people in the Greater Canterbury region use bikes as their primary form of transport – not to mention the estimated 100,000-odd who regularly cycle for recreation.

But there are still concerns about it being unsafe, with cyclists risking decreased stability and a much lower level of protection than that provided by a car. In 2012, eight cyclists died, 161 were seriously injured, and nearly 640 suffered minor injuries in incidents reported [pdf] to police on New Zealand roads. In May, nursing student Sharla Phyllis Haerewa, 22, was hit by a truck and killed while biking along Lincoln Road to work at Christchurch Hospital.

But the Government’s commitment to spending nearly $70 million on a new network of suburban cycleways has been viewed as a positive step towards Christchurch’s becoming one of the world’s best cities for cycling.

Joie agrees that the city could be better optimised for cyclists.

“There could be way more cyclists in Christchurch. It’s a perfect city for cycling. Everyone could bike or at least you could bike twice a week somewhere. And that would be way less cars on the road because at the moment our roads are so crazy and just so impractical for driving around.”

WATCH the first video in our Getting home series, 'Taking the late bus'.

This content is brought to you with funding support from New Zealand On Air.