note by founder Jacqueline
Over 60 000 bicycles are abandoned in Amsterdam annually. Being from rural Zimbabwe and studying in the Netherlands, I have been able to see how bicycles have become an integral part of Dutch society, drastically improving the standard of living. Amsterdam’s bicycle surplus places considerable strain on the city and with Amsterdam fast becoming a popular holiday destination, the issue of surplus bicycles in the city is about to become even bigger than it already is. As a response to this challenge, I had the idea to export abandoned bicycles to rural Zimbabwe. With Zimbabwe with few bicycles, and The Netherlands with more bikes than it needs; makes for the perfect collaboration.
There are more bikes than people in the Netherlands and many get impounded by the municipality, but a lot of these bicycles do not get claimed by the owners. The bikes rust fast from the rainy Dutch climate and end up becoming junk, even though they were in perfect condition when impounded. A waste of a perfectly good bicycle.
In Amsterdam it is common to see scores of people using their bicycles in very creative ways. From simply commuting to work while carrying two or three children to school to transporting couches to even just walking dogs by bike! The Dutch, for example, have managed to harness the power of the people and the utility of bicycles to transform a country into one that is powered by the people and assisted through urban planning. This is what I envision, not only Zimbabwe, but the rest of Africa becoming too.
With Amsterdam being the bicycle capital of the world, it is fitting for it to also be the centre of redistribution. 60 000 unclaimed bicycles a year is a cause for concern, and although bicycle use lowers carbon emissions- an excess of bicycles that results in waste poses a different issue for the environment and the city’s municipality. To alleviate this pressure, surplus bicycles can go to communities that need them and will be able to get years of use out of an already sunken cost. With climate change affecting poor communities than any other group, it is imperative to find structural ways of addressing waste. Recycling them to Zimbabwe is an environmentally conscious way of doing this. Rural Zimbabwe and Moçambique have started to feel the effects of climate change already. In the past three years there have been a number of devastating cyclones that have destroyed many villages and left survivors in an even more vulnerable position.