How cool would it be to point at your bike one day and say that you grew it yourself? I think that would be one of the dopest things ever. Imaginary conversation with Matt sometime in the future . . .
Inquisitive Stranger: “Wow, that’s a cool ride you got there.”
Matt: “Yeah, I remember when my bike was just a little seedling. It really took to the soil in my backyard and went from a cute little shoot, to a strong stalk, to the frame you see today.”
Thanks to a group of students at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), this imaginary conversation might be a reality. The Earth Institute at Columbia University has been looking into developing the bicycle as a sustainable form of transportation in Africa.
The following comes from the Bamboo Bike Project Blog:
Kisumu, they explained, is an area rich in both bamboo and imported Chinese bicycles. Not only are bikes a primary means of personal transportation for many local Kenyans, but Kisumu also lays claim to a massive boda boda taxi industry (boda bodas are essentially bicycle taxis).
Kat, Michelle, Riham, and Young are exploring the possibility of phasing out the heavy metal bikes currently used by boda boda drivers with stronger, locally made bamboo ones. “When we met with the heads of the Boda Boda Association,” Kat explained, “they indicated that bamboo bikes would sell if they were perceived as being stronger and more attractive than what is there now.”
And when local metal bikes register a weight of over 48 pounds (as Kat discovered when she weighed one by the side of the road), it’s easy to communicate the advantages of using a lightweight, well-made bamboo cargo bike. A bamboo bicycle would weigh about half as much, with a tensile strength greater than steel. “There is also great pride to be had in local construction,” Michelle continued, “especially in business ownership by ethnic Kenyans.”
I was actually in Kenya a few years ago and saw some local bike culture myself. Here’s a shot I took in a village:
I was looking at his bike and he asked me if I had ridden a bike before. I told him I did not drive but rather rode to work every day. He said, “Oh, a motor bike, correct?” I said, “No, a pedal bike.” With a look of skepticism he reached down and grabbed my left calf. He squeezed a few times, stood up and with a big smile said, “I doubted you, but now I believe it.”
In the age of steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, and titanium . . . perhaps it will be the organic bamboo tree that is the future of the bicycle frame.