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Exhibition: Women in Urbanism Ōtautahi

The first all-women cycling club in Australasia was formed in Christchurch in 1892. Throughout our city’s history, the bicycle has played an important role in women’s political organising and advocacy. On the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, the Christchurch branch of Women in Urbanism Aotearoa launched an exhibition of historical photos of women on bikes to celebrate the bicycle’s role in women’s freedom.

The exhibition opened on Wednesday, 28 November 2018. The launch party was attended by about 40 enthusiastic supporters, not counting the many curious passers-by who stopped to look at the photos as they were installed. The photos are on display at 125 Hereford Street in a walkway connecting Hereford Street with High Street.

WiU organiser Grace Ryan introduces the exhibition and speakers

The walkway also functions as an entryway to a parking garage. That contrast adds interest: the exhibit is intended to spark conversations about cycling, access, and women’s experience in their urban environment.

Each photo on display is captioned with a short historical note explaining the image and situating it in its local political, social, and transport context. Each caption ends with a message or question linking the history to today’s issues: women’s rights and cycling in Christchurch.

Exhibition photos are captioned with stories about their historical context and thought-provoking links to the present

The launch event featured speeches from Christchurch City Councillor Sara Templeton and visiting author Melissa Bruntlett. Bruntlett’s book, Building the Cycling City, was for sale at the event (via Scorpio Books). Templeton’s speech called out the unequal representation of women in Council and encouraged women to run for office.

We experience the city differently, she said, so it is important for us to be part of the decision-making process. Bruntlett, who is visiting from Vancouver, spoke about how she got into cycling advocacy and her surprise at how many women are involved in it.

Sara Templeton address the gathering

Melissa Bruntlett address the gathering

There were several ways for attendees to participate in the launch. Action Bicycle Club and RAD Bikes provided a vintage 1950s Robin Hood bicycle, and people of all ages decorated the bike with flowers and ribbons in the suffrage colours of white, purple, and green. Attendees were also invited to share their own cycling photos and stories to create a community cycling display.

WiU organiser Charlotte Bebbington of Action Bicycle Club (right) leads the bike decoration, and local bookshop Scorpio Books displays Bruntlett’s book

The community cycling display with photos and stories from Christchurch locals

A vintage 1950s Robin Hood bicycle decorated with the colours of women’s suffrage

The exhibition will remain at 125 Hereford Street until 17 December. Women in Urbanism Ōtautahi would like to thank 152 Hereford Ltd. for the space, Eco Frame and Mirror Company for mounting the photos, and photo sponsors Abley, GHD, Aurecon, Stantec, MRCagney, and Transportation Group New Zealand.

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