Rotterdam spruces up unwanted bikes to give to children

Rotterdam has joined forces with Dutch national travel association, the ANWB, for an initiative that collects, refurbishes and will donate around 500 unused bicycles to children in the city.

Though The Netherlands is rightly regarded as a nation of cyclists, there are between 10,000 and 20,000 children living in what is the country’s second biggest but do not own a bicycle, simply because they cannot afford one.

The ANWB (or Royal Dutch Touring Club) recently began a campaign with the authorities in Rotterdam in which people were encouraged to hand in any old bicycles that were no longer being used. Hundreds of bicycles were handed in as a result, and many of these will now be given to children and young people aged from four to 18.

Frank Kwanten, co-ordinator of the campaign, said: “For these Rotterdam families there is usually no money left to spend on a working bicycle. A bicycle is not one of the basic needs, while cycling is a great asset for children and their environment.”

‘Cycling is a great asset for children’

All of the returned bicycles have been, or are being, repaired in neighbourhoods across Rotterdam at workshops including De Fietsenbank, de Nieuwe Hoop, de Hoekmaat and Rotterdam Inclusive. Jaap Kootkar is a teacher at Rotterdam Inclusive, a local social enterprise where people can learn the basics of the bicycle trade.

He said: “We have received about bicycles that are suitable for children of primary school age. We can convert about 80 to 90 per cent of these into roadworthy bicycles. We remove parts from some which we can use to repair others.

“People with disabilities, the long-term unemployed, people in re-integration work here – we try to get them back into the rhythm a bit, so that they can move onto a permanent job, for example at a bicycle repair shop,” he added.

This initiative is an illustration of how Rotterdam is one of the Netherlands’ most progressive cities when it comes to children. One particular scheme is Children’s Zone (CZ), which is part of the city’s National Program Rotterdam South.

This brings various agencies together to improve life opportunities for children aged up to 14 in selected neighbourhoods where many families are in debt and/or living in poverty. This includes parenting courses, child health and money matters.

Click here for more information on Children’s Zone (in Dutch).

Author: Simon Weedy

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