La Ricicletta (LR) recovers, reuses and refurbishes the numerous bicycles, or parts of them, abandoned throughout the city of Ferrara, Italy.
In 2002, social cooperative Il Germoglio launched LR, a social enterprise employing ≈ 200 people in Ferrara. Ferrara, considered the capital of biking in Italy, saw increasing levels of abandoned bicycles throughout the city's courtyards and streets. From there the idea of recovering, repairing and reusing the numerous bikes (or parts of them) emerged.
LR works through collection or donation of used bikes, working to repair, recover, refurbish and reuse them to ultimately offer rental and sale services. Cooperation with the municipality provides extra bikes after clearing operations carried out by the municipality at the main train station, parking lots, public areas or even private buildings. LR also collaborates with the local Tourist Board and with important hotels in the city to ensure a wide outreach.
The collection (for free) and delivery of bicycles is provided in any area of the city of Ferrara and its province. Citizens receive a 5€ voucher per donated bike.
LR also focuses on a social dimension by creating jobs and training to reintegarte disadvantaged populations into the labour market. Employees involved are highly trained and specialised educators and mechanics.
For instance, LR cooperates with the prison of Ferrara where a worksop was installed. 3 inmates are responsible for the “preparation for reuse” of bikes. Some basic cleaning and refurbishement operations are carried out while the final assembling is done in the LR workshop by specialised technicians.
Il Germoglio takes care of administration and accountancy. Turnover ≈ €120.000/year
Staff: 6 trainees (receiving stipends), 2 technicians and 1 trainer with social care skills.
Recently, LR changed to a more central location able to accommodate numerous different services, operations and clients.
Evidence of success
LR refurbishes, reuses and sells ≈ 150 bikes/year. The bikes are sold with a “carnet” where all repair operations are reported. This helps keep track of repairs and history of each bike.
Citizen donations are growing and the municipality is promoting a new mobility plan focusing on slow transport.
Rental services are also on a rise because Ferrara is an increasingly popular tourist destination.
The rental service is free for schools from anywhere in Italy.
-Affording an operating space to accommodate all bikes + allow for a repair atelier hosting 10 people + client space
-Competition with lowcost bikes made in Asia impacts the bike sales
-Complexity of repair: spare parts aren't “standard” (pedals, handlebars,...)
-Seasonal business (March-October)
Potential for learning or transfer
The transferability and replicability of this initiative is relatively easy, especially where the land is flat and where the use of bikes is popular and well developed.
At the moment, La Ricicletta does not use e-bikes since the demand is still not very high in Ferrara. E-bikes require the recruitment of specialised technicians to ensure the bikes are in perfect condition and extremely safe for rental and/or sale purposes.
A number of services can be replicable in similar contexts. La Ricicletta is currently engaged in talks with various shop owners in Ferrara to develop a delivery service of goods using reused/refurbished cargo bikes.
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