Bikes don’t grow on trees. They do now …

Years back I asked my Father for a bike and, in a homily that introduced the idea of the Saturday job, he told me that they didn’t grow on trees. They do now. On the outskirts of Lusaka in Zambia next years crop of bicycles is being watered by Benjamin Banda: “we planted this bamboo last year and the stems are taller than me. When it is ready, we will cut it and cure it and then, turn it into frames.”

Introducing the Bamboo Zambike

Introducing the Bamboo Zambike

Santa Cruz based Craig Calfee, of Calfee bikes, highlights the load carrying capabilities of this type of eco logical bike in a video filmed in Ghana. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mk2i1rB17iA

The first bamboo based bike was exhibited at the London Stanley show in 1894. So, there is nothing new in the idea. However, as Transformational Logistics explores a range of ideas for Simply Modal – the process of materials handling from end-to-end in as simple and as sustainable a method as possible – this concept has huge potential.

Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on earth. The more than 500 species take one year to grow to their full size and a further 5 to 7 years to strengthen. Conventional steel, aluminium and titanium frames all require high levels of energy from extraction to extrusion. And bamboo bikes can adapt to the harshest environment at affordable prices.

Let’s consider the full impacts of the Bamboo bike. Beyond the ability to perform as well as conventional bikes, the Bamboo version could be the catalyst for a supply chain revolution of real significance. It could generate a new industry in poor countries; open up training and career opportunities for local people and develop a whole eco system of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors of the bikes themsleves. And then, there is the potential to use them in other simply modal supply chains. Add this into the MDC (manual distribution centre) mix raised in a previous post by Tielman and link it to shelf ready packaging for farmers and you get the picture. Simply modal works. Adaptable, affordable and, builds greater connectivity all along the supply chain.

Any other thoughts?

Thanks to Craig Calfee and the BBC report for the idea.

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4 Responses to Bikes don’t grow on trees. They do now …

  1. Tielman says:

    I was in Lusaka last year on project. Pity I did not discover this earlier. Great concept.

  2. robjbell says:

    There are those that dismiss the Bamboo idea as too expensive. See above: Bamboo Bikes do they make sense. The argument is that they are so labour intensive that the price is too high. This reminds me of the British Military hierarchy’s view of the tank after the battle of Cambrai, 1915. They dismissed them out of hand and doubled the budget for oats! The fact was that they had piloted with six machines and didn’t deploy them to their best advantage.

    As with most of the SIMPLY MODAL ideas, there is a real need to explore the ideas within the context of an end-to-end supply chain. In some areas, these ideas work in others not.

    As to the criticism that they will take too much training – this is wide of the mark. We have been working in tamil nadu with the NAESEY (New Era Association of Educated Self-Employed Youth) project. Founded by Ramachandran, the whole idea is to generate major training campaigns that give rural people greater purpose and generate significant sustainable employment. Training is a catalyst that needs to be developed on a MAJOR scale and not dismissed as a block on progress. See next Blog!

    However, there is one useful suggestion made and that is the idea of gathering second hand bikes in the developed world and moving them to a place where they are needed. Here in Hull back in the 70’s we were sending bikes to Vietnam.

    Time to reset and refresh?

  3. Joe Bvumburai says:

    Just seen the Bamboo bike. Anyone with more ideas??

  4. Karen Hughes says:

    Having spent several years in DRC and witnessing transportation in Kinshasa, Kisangani, Mbandaka, Kalemie and Katanga where used VW microbuses were shipped from Europe after the end of useful life there, bikes are a great idea. Congolese love biking competition and bamboo grows all over the place. Commuting by bike would unclog the roads, begin a new industry, green industry – worth a grant from USAID!

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