Saturday, August 1, 2009


Being that I helped to found a Recycle-a-Bike program back home in Memphis--that is, a program that accepts donated used bikes and rehabilitates them to ensure that the bicycles end up back on the roadway--I've been intent on finding similar programs worldwide.

In Copenhagen, I haven't found a program that makes use of the thousands of bicycles found on the streets each year. Mostly, the police place a yellow tag around the top tube of bicycles which lay around for months untouched, and after 30 days or so, they come back to cut the locks and pick the bikes up. The abandoned bikes are scrapped (recycled) but the bikes that turn out to be stolen belong to insurance companies.

People here in Copenhagen can chose to insure their bicycle through their homeowners coverage, so if the police report back to insurance companies that bicycle WW965734D has been stolen, typically the insurance company has already paid the owner, which means the insurance company now owns the bicycle.
This is where Baisikeli comes in.

Baisikeli has made a deal with the insurance companies: Baisikeli purchases the stolen bikes from the insurance company for a nominal fee, fixes them up, and then rents the bicycles out to people (mostly tourists) in Copenhagen.
(A few keys from for the rental bikes at Baisikeli.)

A good idea, right? It gets better: Baisikeli is a "socially conscious business," so they use the money generated from bicycle rental to fund the shipment of bicycles and bicycle parts to a workshop they operate in Tanzania. Their goal is to create a sustainable bicycle industry in Tanzania, which starts with the funds generated from these initial shipments of bicycles, but which will grow to make enough money to create a frame building factory in Tanzania that can create bicycle ambulances and other helpful mobility devices.

This is Lisa, my friend and the lead mechanic at the shop. She is also quite a dancer, apparently. Beside Lisa is a stack of bikes, replenished daily, in need of repair.
The shop at Baisikeli is quite modest. They're constantly improving their facility, as well as their business model, as they are a new and innovative business. Places like Bikes Not Bombs
in Boston have been doing this sort of thing in the U.S. for years. For Copenhagen, however, the idea appears to be quite novel.

I mostly work to fix flats, which on a bike with a coaster brake, rear fenders, a 7 speed internal hub and an axel bolted light system, can take some time.
The closest thing to a bicycle recycling program I've found in Copenhagen, Baisikeli excels in a number of areas. They are very visible and highly respected amongst most Copenhageners, particularly those interested in growing the already vibrant bicycle culture in the city. But whats more, they are authentic community builders. The crew at Baisikeli welcomes everyone with a smile and a bicycle map (a free map illustrating all of the bicycle routes in the City of Copenhagen), and occasionally, a warm cup of coffee.

Check them out on the web:

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