It is ‘Biketober’ in Christchurch, which means a month-long celebration of all things cycling-related. Action Bicycle Club co-owner Charlotte Bebbington has been behind the scenes helping to organise some of the 50 events being held across the city. Charlotte spoke to ChristchurchNZ about the joys of living, working and – of course – riding bikes, in the South Island’s largest city.
When did you first get into cycling and what do you like about it?
I got into cycling when I was living in Shanghai, where almost everyone rides a bike. I love it mostly for the social element. I am not a serious cyclist at all I just like cruising around on my bike and meeting friends along the way – whether it be through things like Biketober, social rides or the odd pub crawl.
What motivated you and Ken to open Action Bicycle Club or ‘ABC’ – as it is also known?
We very much wanted to be part of the new Christchurch and ABC gave us that reason to come back here. My background is in design and Ken’s in electric bikes so ABC is an amalgamation of those two things.
Your motto is ‘Stirring up the action for all things cycle’ – what goes on at ABC?
Our passion for the business runs on the simple idea that people riding bikes for everyday trips makes for happier lives and more livable cities. So, our activities all revolve around that – whether we are servicing bikes, planning fun events, curating products or collaborating with businesses to incorporate bikes into their practice. We want people to give [cycling] a try and enjoy it. We also spend Sundays volunteering with RAD Bikes and fundraise for charities at some of our events.
Can you tell us about the beautiful building ABC is based in – does it have much of a story?
It is one of those undervalued 1960 warehouse buildings tucked away in a semi-industrial area on the fringe of the CBD. We were searching for a shopfront in the city centre for a while and couldn't find anything affordable. Luckily for us ‘South Town’ along Welles and Walker Streets hadn't really taken off so we nabbed the building and a lick of paint did wonders. We also knew there would be an awesome cafe opening next door – The Anchorage.
Do you think Christchurch is a cycle-friendly city?
Definitely. It is flat and reasonably compact for commuting. Not to mention all the great areas for leisurely rides, such as Hagley Park, the residential red zone, the Christchurch Coastal Pathway and the Port Hills.
How do you think we compare to other New Zealand cities and cities overseas?
Christchurch has always had high cycling numbers for New Zealand – but being in the South Island, we lose some of the credit to Auckland and Wellington. Hopefully in the next few years when our cycleways are finished and the numbers soar, others will pay attention to what we're doing here. As for our city's cycling status in the world, we are not quite up there – but we will get there.
What are you hopes for this city in the next few years?
For Christchurch to be blooming with young people with great ideas doing great things and to see more creative small businesses back in the city.
What are your future plans for Action Bicycle Club?
To have a good chunk of New Zealand riding round on ABC bikes! When the financial side of our business is more stable – we are less than a year in – we want to allocate a portion of our income to assist either NGOs or create our own projects that give back to the community, especially if it involves cycling, creativity or livable spaces.
Where do you live in Christchurch and what do you like about living in this city and in your part of town?
I live in Sydenham. Sydenham is great because it is so close to the city and the hills at the same time and being one of the oldest suburbs, it has its charms. Christchurch has a lot of creative people doing great things which brings a cool city vibe – though I think as residents rebuilding a city we shouldn't settle; we should always look for new inspiration outside of our comfort zone.
What are your favourite things to do on a day off?
I love hanging out in my garden in my spare time or a good dinner party with friends.
What is one of your favourite day trips from Christchurch?
Usually anywhere with a bit of bike riding. The Little River Rail Trail is a really nice easy ride; it is doable in a day and also possible to stay overnight.
Where do you go to get a good feed/coffee in the city?
Right now, I'm all about a Saturday morning almond croissant and coffee from The Anchorage. Otherwise I'm down the other end of South Town at Grain or Welles Street – I love the interior! If I’m really hungry you'll find me tucking into a big bowl of spicy noodles at one of our city’s Chinese restaurants.
What is your involvement with Biketober?
I've been working behind the scenes on general organisation and Action Bicycle Club is holding a few events across the month, including the Cycle Power Cinema on October 20, where we will be showing a collection of animated short films. All the electricity used for the cinema will come from pedal power so it will be a lot of fun!