Bikes for Refugees

The Bicycle Institute's "Bikes For Refugees" project recycles bikes and donates them, free of charge, to refugee families recently arrived in Australia, and to other needy sections of the community.

The Need: Each year Australia accepts 13,000 refugees. Most arrive on the Commonwealth humanitarian migration program. As Adelaide is designed around cars, transport is a major problem for many of our new arrivals. It can take several months and several thousand dollars, to obtain a driving licence. In the meantime they need to rely on public transport, lifts, and perhaps bikes to get around.

How Bikes for Refugees started The project started in 2002, when 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.

Since then we have continued to supply bikes to welfare organisations like ARA.

In 2012, the project is in its 11th year, and has handled over 2,000 bikes so far


What we offer:  The scheme involves two areas of skill: recycling; and bicycle mechanics.    Our core expertise, is supplying reliable second-hand bikes. This involves sourcing bikes; assessing condition; cleaning, repairing, servicing; testing for safety and road worthiness.  A fair amount of mechanical knowledge is needed, along with familiarity with the various types of bikes sold in the last 20 years.

We also do:

  • free bike repairs, for refugee families and people looking after them..
  •  support 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.
  • Bike sales: a small percentage of bikes are offered for sale at Adelaide Community Bicycle Workshop. This provides income to buy parts to repair other bikes.  
  • Bike parts: we also sell secondhand parts, including hard-to-get parts from older bikes.


Location Adelaide Community Bicycle Workshop, 34 Long Street, Plympton ..  Saturday mornings 9-12


How the scheme operates.  Each bike is numbered, and  tracked individually through the scheme. We record make, model, colour, and serial number, plus donor. The bike gets a tag with the number tied securely to the handlebars.

Most bikes are stored 'as is', until needed. 

In Adelaide several welfare organisations and charities work with refugee familes, and they will contact us if bikes are needed, with details of ages, gender, and what the bike is needed for.

We then pick from stock, the bike that best meets those needs;  clean it, check it and if necessary service/repair.   Repairs mostly use parts salvaged from other bikes or donated. A few items, such as inner tubes, and cables, we buy in new. Our checks are based on the Victorian government's BikeEd program, which operates in primary schools. We put puncture sealant into the inner tubes - this helps keep the bike on the road, by sealing small punctures instantly. The bike is then ready for its new owner.

Usually the case workers involved with the refugee family, will collect the bike from us, and deliver it. We occasionally delilver bikes ourselves.

Supply is typically 2-4 weeks -  depending on workload, and number of volunteers.


Where donated bikes end up : 85% of bikes received, are put back into use. 5-10% are beyond worthwhile repair, and we salvage parts, to keep costs down. These bikes may be: extremely rusty; so old or worn,  that no-one will want to ride them. They may  have major damage e.g frame damage; or many parts damaged needing several hours work.  3-5% of bikes are sold, to raise funds.

Of the bikes put back into use, Most go to the refugee communities, via requests from recognised welfare organisations and charities e.g Australian Refugee Association.   A few help other disadvantaged members of the community: e.g schools with Aboriginal students,   or youth clubs. 3-5% of bikes are sold, to raise funds, so other bikes can be repaired and handed on.

 How people use our bikes. 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 also find the bikes useful. Hardly any refugees have a driving licence when they arrive - getting one takes up to a year, and several thousand dollars for lessons. The bikes help adults get around, e.g to jobs, during that time. Some people also use the bikes for exercise, or to keep fit.


Employment for young people from refugee background:  We sometimes offer casual Saturday morning jobs, for young people, to help with bike repair. The jobs provide pocket money while they study; an employment reference, plus work experience, to  help them apply for other jobs in future.  Our ability to offer jobs, depend on  finances and workload. Jobs are usually for a 6-week period.

Resources and funding: The scheme is voluntary, and aims to be self-funding, from sales, and from donations. We keep costs low, by using secondhand or donated parts.


To request a bike for someone from refugee background:   -   Please contact Mike, by email or phone

to buy a bike from "Bikes for Refugees" Please visit us at Adelaide Communtiy bicycle Workshop, Plympton, Saturdays, between 9 and 12.  We aim to offer the public, a source of economically priced, secondhand bikes. We also sometimes have interesting historical bikes for restoration

Need bike parts? We also sell recycled  parts, for bike repairs. Most bikes donated are between 5 and 25 years old,   and had some wear & tear. The stock of parts, reflects this. As we're currently based at Adelaide Community Bicycle Workshop, you can also -  for a donation to the Workshop -  use tools and facilities, and do the repair yourself.  Workshop  volunteers  can explain what to do, and which tools you'll need.

Want to donate a bike, or bike parts? We  take bikes that are basically in good condition, and can be got going, relatively easily. A small amount of rust, or flat tyres, are acceptable. All bikes get safety-checked, and serviced.  

We also accept bike helmets, bike locks, and spares.

The 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. Please contact the ARA directly to discuss (telephone 8354 2951) or see their website.



Our Thanks to all people and organisations, who have donated bikes.  Thanks also to 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.

Contact: Please contact Mike Brisco on 8365 7489 (leave message);  email


Further information:

Information sheet for organistions or individuals wanting bikes

Checking procedure, 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

Last up dated 12th November 2012.

2009reportBikesforRefugees.pdf489.88 KB
Bikerecyclingnotes2009.pdf118.82 KB
Bikerecyclingnotes2005.pdf1.75 MB
example of letter of roadworthiness.pdf60.93 KB
Information for organisations needing bikes for their clients.pdf27.45 KB
Safety checklist.pdf57.3 KB