Tuesday, February 12, 2008

wheels for africa: the bamboo bike

cool concept - build something from indigenous materials - a really worthy idea being pursued by dr. david ho and craig calfee (a californian bike designer). dr. ho is connected with the earth institute at columbia university whose motto is “mobilize the sciences, education, and public policy to achieve a sustainable earth.” alright, i’m in!

here’s what david said when applying for seed money in a competition through columbia.

“The bicycle is the primary mode of mobility for millions of people throughout many poorer parts of the world. In addition to individual transport, they see a vast number of applications including moving goods to market, the sick to hospital, and even the distributing medicines. Bicycles currently used in Africa are utterly inappropriate for transportation in these regions. They are a throwback to the British colonial period, meant for the amusement of the wealthy classes in well-paved cities, not for critical transportation of poor rural people. They are manufactured outside Africa in China and India, and shipped complete. Despite the critical need for bicycles in Africa, there are no local bicycle building businesses anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa. The objectives of this proposal are two-fold: 1) To build a better bike for poor Africans in rural areas; and 2) To stimulate a bicycle building industry in Africa to satisfy local needs. The suggestion is to employ native bamboo for the bicycle frames. The goal of this project is to test the feasibility of implementing bamboo bikes as a new form of transportation in Africa.”

it just makes sense that if we are going to offer people back the power that has been taken from them, we have to also empower them to maintain their independence on their own terms. providing people with knowledge and skill and independence will go a long way towards reversing the terrible poverty and hardship that characterizes much of the african continent.

here's a couple of pictures of the frame being assembled:

the finished product:

the bamboo bike homepage is right here.

you can get quite a few questions answered right here in this pamphlet.

this article in the columbia spectator covers a lot of ground as well.

the bottom line is that this is a genuinely worthy project and if you would like to donate to it then you can give a general donation to the earth institute. follow the instructions here to direct your support to the bamboo bike project. or, perhaps the indirect route appeals to you in which case you can shop here.

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