NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

June 18, 2014

Old bikes find new homes

NEWBURYPORT — Old bicycles don’t have to die; if good fortune prevails, they can just fade way to be repaired, recycled and ridden by cyclists from here to Kenya.

City recycling managers and a corps of volunteers are starting another season of taking bikes discarded at the city recycling center or other sites and repurposing them for action.

Some renovated cycles are used by local youngsters in need of wheels; others are sent to villages in Africa so that valuable donations like computers can be delivered to schoolchildren there.

In an era when many energy-conscious citizens are trying to reuse everything from hardware to cooking oil, this re-biking program has traveled from Crow Lane to a distant continent.

“The program helps youngsters here and also in Africa,” said Edo Kombana, project manager for the nonprofit organization that operates the program, Small Solutions, Big Ideas. “What is thrown away in this country is often repairable and usable in others.”

Kombana and Molly Ettenborough, who heads the city’s recycling and energy-efficiency programs, say that close to 200 bicycles have been repurposed for reuse in the past few years.

Bikes brought to the center are cleaned and repaired, often by residents at Link House, a local retreat for adults in transition.

Some go to local churches, whose leaders give them to youngsters in need. Civic organizations also identify recipients.

Other bicycles are sent to educators in Kenya, and here the low-tech nature of the program takes on a high-tech dimension.

Sandra Thaxter, president of Small Solutions, Big Ideas, and others have developed a program to provide laptop computers for schools in rural Kenya.

After buying basic units here for perhaps $200, the computers are shipped overseas.

But the cost of transporting them to rural villages is high, and thus bicycles that might have expired on Crow Lane are used by teachers to deliver the laptops to villages deep in the countryside.

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