Local Revolutionaries: Cycle Advocate Robert

Robert, the Spokes Canterbury’s Treasurer is a long time advocate for cycling and has been the key organiser of the very popular Biketober event in Christchurch. We’ve caught up with him to share with you some of his thoughts about all things cycle.

Hello Robert. Please share with our readers a little about yourself. Where are you from and what currently keeps you occupied?

Both of my parents’ families arrived in Canterbury from the 1860’s onwards to farm in North Canterbury. I settled in Christchurch in 1985. After taking early retirement I now spend time in our vegetable garden and Biketober. I have a little pharmacy work still, which I did for 40 years.

You are the Treasurer for Spokes Canterbury and heavily involved in the Christchurch cycling advocacy scene. What first motivated you to be a cycling advocate?

Sadly a collision which gave me time to think about why Christchurch was so difficult to cycle around. That was in 2013.

You’ve been involved with Spokes Canterbury for some time. Can you share with our readers some of the best outcomes that came out of local cycling advocacy?

Spokes Canterbury was a recreational group before becoming more vocal about the lack of good infrastructure for everyday cycling in Christchurch from 1998 onwards. It has taken over 20 years and an earthquake to get to where we are today. It has been hard work and a team effort from a lot of people, for all those years. The major cycleway programme is the highlight for me, knowing that at last we eventually will have a network of safe and enjoyable routes to get around the city. Streets feel safer when there are plenty of bikes on them – I do believe we are seeing much better driver awareness of bikes than previously.

Tell us a bit about your bikes.

All four bikes have a specific purpose. A Marin 29er is for Bottle Lake Forest, very occasionally the Port Hills, and New Zealand Cycle Trail adventures. A Merida gets hooked up to a trailer to get stuff to and from our garden, which is 900m from home. Extremely handy, and this bike is a good spare and bike to loan out for visitors.

The Pashley 3 speed is the perfect around town bike, upright, reliable and very comfortable.

The recent acquisition – the ‘truck’ – a cargo bike for daily deliveries to two of our rest homes.

Having some experience riding cargo-bikes for sometime now, what could you say to other people interested in cargo-bikes who are sitting on the fence?

I’ve found using the cargo bike to be just as enjoyable as any other bike. It’s comfortable to ride and after a week or so it’s as though you’ve been doing it forever. Whether it be for work, to pick up the groceries, or a bag of chicken pellets its great to be almost totally free from car dependence.

You have taken on the role of coordinator of Biketober for some years now. Will there be another Biketober this year? Could you share with us some new perspective on how things could be more engaging or interesting?

Biketober planning starts in January each year. Once we reached Covid Level 1, it was felt that this year Biketober was not only doable but also very important for many. We need entertainment more than ever that is fun, local, healthy, affordable, and open for everyone to participate.

Could you share with us one event that you think everyone should come along?

Because I enjoy getting our destinations involved with the Passport, and hearing good feedback from those who participate, this is the favourite for me. Discover the city as you have never done before.


Almost full temporary cycle parking in the CBD. Robert believes streets feel safer when there are plenty of bikes on them.

With global COVID-19 ongoing. Could you share with us a memorable NZ bike ride you think our readers could be interested in?

Doing the Alps to Ocean Trail in two separate trips two years apart was easy and really enjoyable. Taking the time not just to marvel at the scenery but getting to know the history and geography of the small towns and rural areas of the Waitaki Valley through to Oamaru. Such a kiwi experience, right on our doorstep.

Could you share with us one handy tip or product you have for the cycle commuter lifestyle?

The Tip – If the weather is cool ( cold even ) it is less likely to be windy. Dress well and enjoy the ride, frosty mornings included.

The Product –  A quality pump.

Thanks Robert!

For more information and updates on Biketober visit their website or follow them on Facebook. To support local cycle advocacy please consider making a donation to CAN to keep local and national advocacy strong. They need your help more than ever.


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