Bill’s pedalling for change

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Pedalling for change . . . Southland engineer Bill Blakie spends most of his time out in the garage building his sustainable transport bikes.

SOUTHLANDER Bill Blakie reckons it takes less energy to ride his three to four-wheel motorised bikes than it does to boil the jug in the morning.

After a bad hip left him walking with a stick 25 years ago, the Invercargill man found two-wheel cycling helpful for his rehabilitation, he said.

It was also good for his environmental conscience.

However, he said getting on and off the bike was the problem.

“I used to have to lean it up against a fence so I could get on, it was too hard to get that high up off the ground.”

In 1996, after “a bit of” trial and error, he successfully built a low to the ground-level three-wheeler electric bike all in the comfort of his home garage.

“I bought the motor and the gearbox, the wheels and the chair, but everything that’s painted I’ve made.

“It costs virtually nothing to run, you just battery charge it.”

Weighing just 45kg, the bike was powered by a 300-watt motor and could travel at an average of 24km per hour at a range of about 40km, he said.

Built from aluminium tubing and coated in polycarbonate, the bike’s clip-on canopy was built to withstand almost all conditions.

“I’ve been out in the worst weather in it. I thought the wind might blow it over but it’s just like cruising along in the shelter.”

Fitted with mirrors, headlights and windscreen wipers, it even had roll-down windows for good weather days.

In 2000, he developed a four-wheeler bike to allow for more storage space.

Since his first build, he had constructed and sold more than 40 three, four, and one six-wheeler bikes to customers around the world, from Switzerland to the Ukraine, and in New Zealand, he said.

“I had one customer who bought a bike for his disabled daughter… the six-wheeler was for a blind man, he did the pedalling and his wife did the steering… an elderly woman wanted a hook on the front of hers so her dog could pull her along.”

While he was modest about his own inventions, he was in no rush to shut up his workshop, Mr Blakie said.

“I guess it lets people do things they perhaps wouldn’t normally be able to.”

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