Bikes for Refugees

[last update: 28  March 2015]

NB: Now located at The Joinery, 111 Franklin St, Adelaide (old Central Bus Station - opposite the Central Market)

Bikes for Refugees SA Incorporated (ABN 20 663 461 735) is a bike recycling scheme, that runs under the supervision of BISA, supplying bikes free of charge, to people in need.  

The scheme meets  the  refugee/asylum seeker community need, for help with transport.

We also help other people who are in need.

We aim to help people in a friendly way, and without discrimination.

The scheme is a registered charity with the Australian Charities & Not-for-Profits Commission. It also holds a Licence for Collections for Charitable Purposes in SA (Lic No CCP2132). It is not-for-profit, and run by volunteers.  

Most bikes are donated by  the public, sometimes bike shops and schools, & we also accept donations of helmets, accessories, and bike parts in good condition.

Bikes are given out on the basis of a referral, from someone familar with the client, and their circumstances. This is often a case worker from a recognised welfare organisation, e g Migrant Resource Centre, Red Cross, Anglicare. We also accept referrals from  volunteers working with refugees; other members of the refugee community.  The client then gets an appointment to visit the workshop, and picks out a bike they like. We then check it over, and do any necessary repairs. The client  can usually take their bike home the same day.

In 2013-14, Bikes for Refugees handled 400 bicycles.  5 bikes in 6  - 340 bikes - were returned to rideable condition, and given  to people in need.  Of the remaining 60 bikes -  40 were dismantled for parts,  to repair others bikes; 20 sold to raise funds. The scheme is now in its 11th year, and has handled well over 3000 bicycles.

  If you want to see what we do -  come down to the bike workshop, we welcome visitors. We are currently based at Adelaide Community Bicycle Workshop - 111 Franklin St Adelaide. We are there every Saturday morning, 9 am to 12 noon.


How Bikes for Refugees started:
In 2002, the sister of a Bicycle Institute member, travelling on a bus, over-heard some African people speaking French. She found they had recently arrived from Congo, were cyclists in Africa, and wondered if they could get bikes here. She asked her brother if The Bicycle Institute could find bikes for them. Institute members responded with 18 bikes: 4 fully equipped, went to four new arrivals around Christmas, and another 14 to the Australian Refugee Association (ARA) a few months later.


The Need:
Each year Australia accepts 13,000 refugees. As Adelaide is designed around cars, transport is a major problem. For a new arrival, getting a driving licence and car, takes several months and lessons can cost several thousand dollars. Refugees seldom have relatives / friends with full licences who can  help with practise, and often, to get the necessary 75 hours driving experience, they need to pay an instructor)  In the meantime,  they rely on public transport, lifts, and perhaps bikes to get around.  The bikes are to help with transport needs at that time. Children can ride around with friends, play, or run errands for their parents. Young people cycle to school, study or library, or sports matches. Adults find the bikes useful e.g get to English classes or to work, or to ride to keep fit. They also use bikes to get to the shops, or to travel to appointments.


What we do: 
Core activity: Bike recycling The scheme provides a supply of free secondhand bikes, for people in need. The bikes are checked for safety, and generally OK for gentle riding round the city. This involves three areas of skill: recycling expertise; bicycle mechanics expertise; and working with people from non-English speaking background.  This expertise
generates a supply of reliable secondhand bikes, which just about meets current demand.

Other activities

  • Sale of basic accessories at low cost: We keep small stocks of new lights, pumps, helmets, locks, etc and sell these at-cost.  We get too few donated to meet demand; and newly arrived people who need them, can find shopping for them a bit of a challenge.
  • free bike repairs. People who get bikes from us, can bring them back for help with repair any time. (like all members of the public, they are welcome to attend the Adelaide Community Bicycle Workshop)
  • Bike swap for growing  children: We keep bikes of all sizes, from 12 in wheels upwards. If children outgrow bikes, we can swap them. Older children  may like to visit with their families, to borrow tools and work on their bikes at the Workshop. Finally, for infants, we have bike seats and trailer bikes to hand on.
  •  support for local councils, OPAL, and other organisations to  run bike activities. e.g bike-building events; bikes for cycling education classes; "Bring & Fix" where the public can bring along bikes and have them repaired.
  • In 2009, we organised a one-off collection of 100+ bikes, to assist Aboriginal communities in SA and the NT, and to help schools with Aboriginal students in Whyalla and Port Augusta.
  • sales of second-hand bikes and bike part : a small percentage of bikes are offered for sale, to raise funds 
  • Saturday morning jobs, for young people, to help with bike repair. The jobs provide members of the refugee community with pocket money while they study; an employment reference;  experience of the Australian workplace culture.
  • Environmental protection. Bikes for Refugees aims to improve the environment by (a) diverting unwanted bikes and parts from general refuse, and putting them back into use; (b) encouraging the use of bicycles for transport, thus lowering environmental impact, and reducing carbon pollution.


Resources and funding:
The scheme  is just unpaid volunteers from the community, who try to help people in need. It aims to be self-funding, from sales, and donations. We keep costs low, by using secondhand or donated parts. Currently the scheme receives no grants or government assistance, other than use of the Adelaide Community Bike Workshop facilities at Plympton, provided  by West Torrens Council.


You can help in the following ways:

  •  Donate a bike (from 07 Feb  2015).   If the bike is in good condition and rideable - or can be got rideable easily - we are glad to have it.   We are specially glad of adults/teenagers bikes, including BMX, racers, and road bikes. Even Old bikes (pre 1970) are useful, as we sell those to raise funds. If we can't return a bike to service, we can generally salvage parts.     However, at time of writing (Feb 2015) , there are a few bikes we can't use.    Childrens bikes (12, 16 and 20 in wheel) apart from BMX which are always welcome;  'Budget brand bikes'  Huffy, Cyclops, Dunlop, Kent, Southern Star;  bikes that are very rusty or worn out.      Explanation: We already have plenty of childrens bikes, demand is slow, storage is limited. For budget brands, parts wear out very quickly, making the bike difficult to operate. It is hard to repair them satisfactorily. (In contrast to other brands, where time and effort spent on adjustment or repair, quickly produce  satisfactory results).  Re rusty / worn out bikes - rust on bikes is unsightly, removing it is slow/expensive, and we lack the time and resources. If a bike is rusty, even if it's going OK,  people dont want to ride it, and will wait for a better one.
  • Donate bike parts  Good condition parts are useful, to get other bikes going, and keep our costs down.
  • Donate bike helmet, lock, or lights* people need these to operate a bike in Adelaide. Bike theft is a major problem here.
  • Donate racks,  baskets, panniers, small rucksack - people like to fit these, to carry shopping
  • Donate bike clothing do you have any souvenier tops from special bike rides e.g Ride like Crazy? If used only once or twice - and clean- we can hand these on
  • Buy a bike from "Bikes for Refugees"   We offer  economically priced, secondhand bikes for commuting or pleasure. Please contact us to find out what's on hand.
  • Buy bike parts or old bikes for restoration , We also sell old bikes, unusual bikes that come in (single speeds, dragsters), recycled  parts.  If you are looking for a particular type of bike to restore, or for parts - please inquire.
  • Become a volunteer  We're looking for people with: interest and some experience in bike maintenance/repair; able to turn up for 2-3 hours on Saturday mornings; friendly and patient with people from a range of backgrounds. If you want to improve  your skills with bike mechanics - and you don't mind a little dust and grease - please contact us.
  • Become a member of "Bikes for Refugees" - with a low annual subscription, this is  an inexpensive way to support our aims. Membership form available on request.

*Helmets and lights are especially useful, every person who gets a bike from us needs them, and demand outstrips supply. Often our clients are on very low incomes $200 a week, or $10,000 a year; and few have jobs.   We keep small stocks of new items, for sale at cost - but some clients even find these, unaffordable.

NB - The Australian Refugee Association also accepts donations of household goods, in good condition, e.g. furniture, soft furnishings, toys, etc. - to give out, as part of their Settlement program. If you are able to help refugees gain driving experience, by volunteering your time and your car - they would also like to hear from you !   Please contact the ARA directly to discuss (telephone 8354 2951) or see their website.


Other organisations that re-cycle  bicycles in Adelaide:

There is a wide choice available now, to people who have a bike to donate.

If you prefer your bike go to one of those,  that's fine! Different organisations have different aims, and different preferences - so if we can't use your bike, one of these may. As long as your old bike gets recycled somewhere, all is good.

Bicycles for Humanity - local branch of this international organisation, collecting bicycles for overseas aid. Donors deliver bikes to a location in Adelaide, B4H packs them in a large shipping container and covers costs of shipping. Overseas, this gift gets bikes into a local community, and also allows them to set up a bike shop, to repair / service the bikes.

BikeKitchen - a community bike workshop in Bowden, where all  people can meet to rebuild old bikes, share a meal, have a good time.

BikeSA: Best known for promoting recreational cycling - from time to time they appeal for bikes for special purposes, e.g in 2014, BMX bikes to go to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara lands.

Mens Sheds - there are many of these around South Australia, run by a range of organisations. They are places for older men to meet,  keep up their handyman skills, and contribute to the community. Many can  accept bikes for recycling, to hand on. Use Google to see if there is one near you.

 Australian Refugee Association  - not for bicycles (they'll refer you to us!) but  accept furniture, household goods to pass on to refugee families settling in Adelaide.



Our Thanks to all  who donated bikes;  volunteers who restore, check, and repair bikes. Each bike takes overall a couple of hours work, and over the years, many people have helped.

Special thanks  to Kevin Clarke at Clarke's Cycles, 354 Magill Road, Kensington Park (tel. 8332 3083), for long term support.

Other bike shops have also supported us, with discounts, advice, donations of bike boxes, parts, and bikes: These include: Lifecycles; JT Cycles; Plympton Cycles; Stepney Cycles; Bernie Jones Cycles.

Photos  show volunteers, visitors, friends, and others, with bikes donated to the Workshop.  Photo credits: Sandor Horvath, Sam Powrie, Anon.


Workshop Address: The Joinery, 111 Franklin Street Adelaide (old Central Bus Station - opposite the Central Market)

Workshop Opening Hours: Saturdays from 9. am to 1 pm, including long weekends.

Further Informtion (and requests for bikes): Mike Brisco Tel: 8365 7489 (leave message) or sms on 0435 021 681 or email at



Information sheet for organistions or individuals wanting bikes

Procedure for checking bikes, 2011

Roadworthiness documentation - example

Report on 2009 Bikes for the Outback Scheme

2009 Annual Report, on Bikes for Refugees

Notes on how we recycle old bikes

Notes on how the scheme is organised

 Red Cross booklet - Asylum seekers: 13 things you should  know [coming soon]

Bikes for Refugees is the operating name / business name of "Bikes for Refugees SA Inc", ABN 20 663 461 735;  registered as an Incorporated Association in South Australia (A 42240); registered as a Charity with the Australian Charities & Not-for-profits Commission. Licensed under section 6, Collections for Charitable Purposes Act (S Australia) 1939  (Lic No CCP 2132)

 Last up dated 28th March 2015.

Information for organisations needing bikes for their clients.pdf27.45 KB
Safety checklist for bicycles.pdf57.3 KB
example of letter of roadworthiness.pdf60.93 KB
Information sheet (Farsi) - about the Bikes for Refugees scheme372.55 KB
Information sheet (Farsi) - Bicycle safety, and protection against theft685.68 KB
2009 report Bikes for Refugees.pdf489.88 KB
How to recycle bicycles - notes 2009.pdf118.82 KB
How to recycle bicycles - notes 2005.pdf1.75 MB
Photo - volunteers inspect a bike37.68 KB
Photo - some donated bikes44.64 KB
Photo - working on bikes67.43 KB
Photo - bike and rider 134.08 KB
photo - children's bikes88.48 KB
photo - bike and rider 252.95 KB
photo - bike and rider 344.66 KB
Photo - bikes and riders 457.47 KB