Man's valuable finds in rubbish dumped for council cleanup

Most of the bikes Alan finds on the side of the road only require minor repairs, including one that simply needed air in its tyres.

Left - bikes in hard rubbish, including mattresses on a Sydney street. Right - inside Alan's garage.
Alan Ventress collects bikes dumped on the street, fixes them, and then gives them away to charity. Source: Supplied

A clever Aussie grandfather has learned a new skill set to give abandoned push bikes a second life. 74-year-old Alan Ventress was inspired to fix up broken bikes after being shocked by dozens of broken push bikes discarded on his street.

Having grown up poor in 1950s rural England, 74-year-old Alan Ventress learned to value possessions, particularly the bike his grandmother gave him for his eighth birthday. Decades on, he was shocked at what a “throwaway society” his adopted home has become.

“I’d see bikes discarded for minor faults,” he told Yahoo News. “One of them was a very new looking and all that was wrong with it was it needed its tyres pumping up, but there it was in a pile of rubbish.

“It seems to me that people just don't have the time, energy or commitment to the environment anymore. When you consider these bikes could be easily fixed with a modicum of mechanical ability, it seems rather depressing really.”

Alan first noticed the problem when he was cooped up inside during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Frustrated by the waste, he began driving around in his yellow Kombi van and taking bikes back to his garage. Since then he's fixed an estimated 450 bikes, and then handed them on to those in need.

A yellow Kombi van filled with bikes during one of Alan's trips around Sydney
Alan hauls the bikes into his ageing Kombi van and drives them home to be fixed. Source: Supplied
A red bike against a tree with a free sign on it.
Alan places the bikes on the side of the road so those in need can take them home. Source: Supplied

Many of the bikes were sent to Indigenous families in the rural NSW town of Walgett through a local council initiative, while some have gone to a children’s home. But others he’s simply put out on the street with a “Free” sign on them, and been able to delight in seeing them taken away.

“Occasionally I have met people who have been quite grateful to get the bike. I recall one Chilean student had just arrived in Australia and she was very grateful to get the bike because she didn’t have much money,” he said.

“Another time there was a single mother who needed a bike for her son, and I was able to give them a particularly good one.”

Because he doesn’t see where most of the bikes go, he has copped some criticism from friends speculating they’re being sold by greedy people on eBay.

Alan holding his bike on a hill with Sydney in the background.
Alan Ventress enjoys cycling around Manly Vale where he lives. Source: Supplied

“Really I couldn’t care less. My main aim is just to keep them momentarily out of landfill. And if I give life to a bike for an extra six months, my aim has been fulfilled.”

If you imagine that discarded bikes are a minor issue you’d be wrong. An estimated 300,000 bikes are thrown into landfill every year, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours to fix up a bike. While the number fluctuates, Alan generally finds around two dumped on the street every week.

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