Kuranui College acting principal Maree Patten has ditched her car in favour of an e-bike and has already clocked up a whopping 6,600kms since making the switch in September 2016.
The South Wairarapa teacher spent time in Denmark last year and was attracted to the bike scheme run throughout its capital Copenhagen. “My husband and I hired e-bikes. They’re a lot of fun, you just pay for them and drop them off at the next stand,” she explained. “Inspired, I returned home and bought my own e-bike. The weather’s generally nice here and this country is just perfect for cycling.”
Patten admits she’s no ‘greenie’, but immediately embraced the health benefits of cycling and has cycled to work from her home in Martinborough to the college in Greytown ever since.
She has only missed eight days out of about 180 since adopting this new form of transport. Four were because it was dangerously wet, one was because the Waihenga Bridge was closed, and the rest because Patten was away at a teacher’s conference.
“The wind has been a challenge and logging trucks are just dreadful. I also hate the bridge going into Martinborough. It’s such a nightmare because it’s so narrow: I just end up riding in the middle of it.
“The steep hill out of Martinborough can also be a challenge because there’s no shoulder at the top of the cutting, so when you get passed by a logging truck, which are pretty common, and the big cattle trucks – some of them get so close you feel sucked in.”
The e-bike chosen by Patten is a power-assisted entry-level bike. It doesn’t have a throttle, so must be pedalled. The power-assist means that the bike goes much further with one revolution than an ordinary bike, which can come in handy when you’re cycling up hills or into the wind.
“I do adore my electric bike. On really windy days, like some of the terrible southerlies you can get, it can be horrible. The wind almost pushes me backwards, so you just put the bike on high power and it takes away the effect.
“I don’t mind hail, and the rain is only an issue when the road is very slippery. On the way back down to Martinborough, my bike gets up to in excess of 50kph and it can get quite scary. If I came off I’d lose a lot of skin,” she said.
Patten has ridden her bike throughout the winter and takes safety very seriously ensuring she wears reflective clothing and uses lights. “Although my bike’s got great lights, I try to get home before it gets dark. Safety is hugely important. You have to remember you’re a cyclist and you’re no match for a big truck or a car. You do have to have your wits about you and be vigilant on the road.
Patten says she wouldn’t be so committed if she didn’t enjoy it, and it’s the enjoyment that has kept her going, with each journey taking up to 40 minutes each way.
“You’ve really got to use your eyes and look around and take in the beauty we have here in Wairarapa. When I ride my bike in the morning into Greytown, I look to the left and it’s just stunning. On a really cold frosty morning when it’s so clear and so crisp, you just look at the snow-covered ranges and you think – oh my goodness – I live in the most beautiful place.”