Volunteers in Fort Collins on Saturday loaded hundreds of abandoned and donated bikes into a shipping container bound for Africa.
The bikes collected by the Fort Collins Bike Co-op are destined for Ghana under the auspices of the Village Bike Project.
Co-op volunteers have been collecting and refurbishing the bikes for months, concentrating mostly on adult bikes in reasonably good condition, said co-op board member Doug Cutter.
“The criteria is that it’s not totally a rust bucket,” Cutter said during a break from loading.
Cutter and several other volunteers Saturday were wheeling the bikes from the basement of the old Steele’s Market out into the parking lot, where local Ghana project coordinator Riley Phipps packed them into the steel shipping container.
Pedals were screwed on facing in, handlebars turned sideways and tires deflated. Cutter estimated about 450 bikes would be loaded and sent off.
Packed among the bikes are seats, spare parts and helmets.
“They’re all compressed as much as possible to save space,” Phipps said.
Cutter said the bikes will be trucked to Denver, put on a train and sent to a port, then shipped to Africa, where they will be distributed. He said some of the bikes will be sold, to pay for the shipping costs.
Since its founding in 1999, the Village Bicycle Project has provided 36,000 bikes to Africans. According to VBP, some African countries charge high taxes on bikes, considering them a form of recreation, not low-cost transportation.
Cutter said while this is the first shipment of bikes from Fort Collins to Ghana, it likely won’t be the last. The co-op rewards volunteers with refurbished bikes, if they want them, with the aim of diverting as many bikes as possible from landfills. Worst-case scenario, the group recycles broken bikes as scrap metal.
“If you have an abandoned bike, you can call us and we’ll take care of it,” Cutter said.