People's Stories

My Look Back
Meet Bill from Invercargill, New Zealand  

I was born into a large family on a bush farm many years ago. Times were tough, we were poor, though we didn't know as all our friends and neighbours were in similar circumstances. The old house was cold and draughty, hygiene very minimal, but we survived somehow. Mother had a large garden and worked long hours there as the only vegetables we got came from the garden, never the shop. There was no Social Welfare to go to in a bad year - we just had to do without. Clothes were made by Mother or hand-me-downs from cousins. The only way up was to clear the land and grass. That meant many hours behind the plough and picking up sticks. We had cows to milk, sheep, pigs, hens, and dogs all requiring attention, so a holiday was never an option.


I was supposed to be a farmer, but by my mid-20s I decided it was not for me, so I took a job in Invercargill as a welder doing what I liked making things. I spent years improving my limited education and trying to improve my skills. I was maintenance engineer at a local woolscour. That was a 24/7 job, tough but rewarding with opportunities to develop new machines along the way. 


So why is a middle-aged comfortable man messing around with bikes? The answer. Because he found it hugely beneficial. I had a hip that was worn out and in need of replacement. It got to the stage of where I was limping in from work and laying on the sofa too tired and sore to do much. Walking 50 metres was about my limit without a spell, so I decided to try biking and I got a 10 speed in a garage sale. I decided to bike to work about 4 km each way, but with only 1 km into the ride my hip was really painful and objecting. I was considering going back home and getting the car, but I gritted my teeth and carried on. The pain gradually eased and biking home was a little easier. Within a week I could feel the improvement and it kept improving. Life was looking brighter, but a regular bike was awkward to get on and off with a crook hip. I needed to park by a fence or pole to dismount. That's when I started looking at recumbents, but with a low seat, feet forward, 2-wheelers weren't suitable, so I started building a 3-wheeler tadpole style, 2 steering wheels at the front and conventional back wheel and gearing. I intended to use it to work on the good days, but with a stable platform I could include a wind shield to keep some of the rain off.

The extra frontage was noticeable, so I looked at electric assistance and I could then bike to work every day.


The steering was heavy on the 3-wheelers and with only a small carrier on the back, side bags were needed. That's when I investigated a 4-wheeler and those problems disappeared - light steering and baggage space on the back.


Meanwhile, my hip improved, walking improved, and my life improved. I was involved with the Auxiliary brass band and became their band leader and drill instructor. I led them successfully  in the street march in 4 national contests playing of course “The Invercargill March” - not too bad for a person with a crook hip. I put off a new hip for 18 years. It could have been longer, but I had been paying into Medical insurance for over 20 years and the cost was up to $6000 a year for a couple, so I thought I better get the operation and drop the insurance.


I won an award from AMP in the 90's with my bikes for older people, but their uptake of the biking and its likely benefits has been largely ignored by the very people most likely to profit by trying biking. E-cycling is changing that attitude, it is now happening, and the ACC is now reporting a steep rise in cycling injuries. I have not fallen off a 4-wheeler in 20 years. They are so safe and comfortable and a natural progression as one gets older and wishes to continue cycling.


My latest development is the “Pico” model because it is a small full canopy all-weather e-cycle that could replace a car in many instances. With Climate Change starting to bite, it is a game changer. You don't need to consider your clothes or the weather - just get in and go. A regular electric car could weigh 2,000 kg whereas the “Pico” is under 50 kg with a minimal carbon footprint. The Pico could be built in New Zealand (another light industry) and with a solar panel, it could  run on sunshine. Something else to challenge the transport dilemma.



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