New life for recycled bikes

It was an eye opening moment for Bendigo teacher John Taylor to experience just how appropriate it is to send recycled mountain bikes to Africa. Last September John went as part of a team to Chibobo, a remote area of Zambia, to convert a shipping container into a bicycle workshop sent from Melbourne by Bicycles for Humanity also containing over 400 recycled bicycles.

A long line of bikes that have just been unloaded from a shipping container

Two wheeled opportunities: Bikes for Humanity is sending containers of donated bikes to places like rural Zambia. Photo: John Taylor

People in Chibobo, like most in rural Zambia, are mostly subsistence farmers, with an average annual income of a few hundred dollars, less than we earn in a week. Education and health services are limited and mobility is by an old worn out bicycle at best.

John says, “It’s common to see a 50 kg load, or more, of maize, charcoal, or whatever they need to transport, strapped on the back of a bike. Furthermore, nearly every bike you see is broken or worn out in some way and well beyond what we would consider its useful life.”

In this setting recycled mountain bikes are highly valued. They are stronger, more durable, and can be sold at a more affordable price than the colonial style imports. When the community of Chibobo heard that a container of bicycles was arriving there was great expectation.

Once the container had been converted into a workshop, a sister organisation based in Namibia, called Bicycle Empowerment Network, became involved. With the help of aid organisations, like AusAID, they provided tools, cycle parts and training in bicycle maintenance and small business management to selected locals, who then took on the responsibility of running it as a self-sufficient small business, called a Bicycle Empowerment Centre. The aim is to give a disadvantaged community a ‘hand up’, not a ‘hand out’.

Some of the bikes are given to volunteer community workers but most are sold. John continues, “The workshop which we helped build in Chibobo has already grown another workshop in a neighbouring community. It has sold all its bikes and profits generated have paid wages, provided support to the local orphanage and is being used to pay for some of the freight costs of the next bike shipment which has already left Melbourne.”

A collection drive is being made Victoria wide by the Association of Regional Waste Management Groups over the weekend of September 10 and 11. Bikes can be taken to:

  • the Eaglehawk Recycle Centre,
    8.30 am to 5.00 pm Saturday or
    10.30 am to 3.30pm Sunday, or
  • the Uniting Care Op Shop, corner Laurel and Panton St Golden Square, 9.00 am to 1.00pm Saturday.

Bikes will be passed on to Bicycles for Humanity from these locations.

“Having seen first-hand just how well this recycled bike program meets the needs of the people in Chibobo, I can wholeheartedly endorse a Bendigo collection of bikes for Bicycles for Humanity.”

Bikes should be sturdy, mountain bikes are ideal, and be serviceable or easily repaired. Generally rusty bikes cannot be used by this collection. Small issues like cables or tyres are no problem. Children’s bikes and BMX are also suitable. Please look in your shed for a bike suitable for this worthy cause and share the world wide joy of cycling freedom and empowerment in a community need. You can learn more here,

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing.


One Response to New life for recycled bikes

  1. Thanks for getting the word out about how used bikes can change the lives of people in remote areas of Africa. So many people have old bikes sitting around in sheds, basements, and garages, and by donating these bikes to Bicycles for Humanity or other similar organizations, such a bike can start a new life helping people in need.

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