Last updated: 1 December, 2014

Amsterdam sends abandoned bicycles to Syrian refugees

Amsterdam was due Monday to send hundreds of unwanted bicycles to help Syrian refugees get around the sprawling Zaatari camp in Jordan.

“Some 300 abandoned bicycles are set to leave Amsterdam today,” said Ton Buffing, in charge of the project for Amsterdam city council.

“The bicycles should arrive in (the port of) Aqaba in Jordan in about three weeks after which they will be taken to the camp,” the former Amsterdam transport advisor told AFP.

The idea to send bicycles to the Zaatari camp, situated around 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of Amman, came after Amsterdam city council responded to a call for help from the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Buffing said.

“Every day we confiscate between 200 and 250 bicycles that are either abandoned or parked illegally,” Buffing said.

The bicycles are then taken to a holding shed in the Dutch capital’s harbour to join a trove of some 25,000 ownerless bikes.

The bicycles being sent to Jordan have been in the holding shed for longer than three months and were fixed up by a team last week in preparation for their new journey, Buffing said.

The ever-growing Zaatari camp houses around 100,000 Syrian refugees fleeing Syria’s bloody civil war.

“Zaatari has turned into a small city,” Buffing said.

“With this contribution we hope to help alleviate some of the transport problems experienced in the camp, including hoping that people will turn the bicycles into taxis or perhaps set up a small business to rent them out.”

There are around 18 million bikes in the Netherlands — 490,000 in Amsterdam alone — and in recent years badly parked bicycles have become a headache for many city authorities.