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by George Clark

The New Zealand Transport Agency has teamed up with cycling initiative Love to Ride to bring the Aotearoa Bike Challenge back to Timaru.

The free nationwide competition aims to see which workplace can get the most staff to try riding a bike during February.

Individuals have to ride for only 10 minutes to go in the draw for prizes and help their organisation climb the leaderboard.

Active travel health promoter at Community and Public Health Jane Sullivan said encouragement was at the core of the Aotearoa Bike Challenge.

“Everyone can join in – it doesn’t matter if you ride every day or haven’t been on a bike in years. In fact, some people learn to ride during the challenge.”

One local resident who is taking part in the challenge is South Canterbury District Health Board community physiotherapist Chris D’souza.

“Riding my bike to work makes it easy to exercise regularly, and it helps me feel connected to nature and the elements,” Mr D’souza said.

“Biking home helps me unwind after work and I feel like I’m doing my little bit to help the environment.”

SCDHB communications manager Karen Berry said there were seven size categories based on employee numbers to ensure a fair contest.

“The South Canterbury DHB pedalled its way to the top of the leader board in the Aotearoa Bike Challenge last year, finishing first place in health care industry 500-1999 staff.”

Timaru is a cycle-friendly district with cycle lanes on the main arterial roads and 11 recreational tracks.

The Aotearoa Bike Challenge is based on a tried and tested challenge model that has engaged more than 400,000 people worldwide, including 105,000 “new riders” ridden a bike or have ridden only a few times in the 12 months prior to registration.