It’s not just panda food


“This is a sustainable material for sustainable transport.”
— Marty Odlin, a founder of the Bamboo Bike Studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn

Some might think of bamboo as panda food, stuff to make chopsticks out of or an invasive barrier plant that grows like Topsy and requires napalm to eradicate.
But bamboo, promoted as a greener alternative to a variety of building materials, is used for flooring, venetian blinds, furniture, roofing, musical instruments and, yes, bicycles.
On Thursday, The New York Times carried in its Fashion & Style section a story about the use of bamboo in building bikes — ranging from high-dollar racing machines to low-tech, inexpensive cargo carriers for use in developing countries.
The Times story said “bamboo is being heralded by bikers, environmentalists and social entrepreneurs as a material with no carbon footprint and the potential to provide cheap wheels in poor countries. Serious spandex-clad cyclists like bamboo bicycles, as do tattooed bike messengers and thrifty Ghanaian shopkeepers.”

Pandurban commuter bike made from laminated bamboo by Renovo in Portland, Ore.

The website treehugger.com recently touted the benefits of bamboo bikes. Its tensile strength is comparable to steel or aluminum, and it’s lighter. It’s a renewable resource that grows faster than weeds. And it’s biodegradable. The website also posted a gallery of photos of bamboo bicycles, including one made in 1896 that is on display in the Technical Museum in Prague.
Calfee Design of La Selva Beach, Calif., has been a pioneer in designing and building bamboo bikes. According to the company’s website, its first bamboo bike was built in 1995 as a publicity stunt by Craig Calfee. After building a dozen bamboo bikes for employees, relatives and friends and getting good feedback on the quality of the ride, the company began producing them in 2005.

Poster for a Denver event promoting bamboo bikes

And that led the next year to an outreach to Africa.
“Back in 1984, when Craig was wandering around Africa,” the website says, “he noticed three things: 1. There was a lot of bamboo, 2. People used bikes and didn’t have enough of them, and 3. they needed jobs. Perhaps people could build their own bamboo cargo bikes.
“So he put a small notice on the website to see if there was any interest in the idea. Various organizations and individuals encouraged and funded Craig to go try it out. Now there are bamboo bikes being made in Ghana with more places on the way.”

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1 Comment

Filed under Cool stuff, Environment, Urban cycling

One response to “It’s not just panda food

  1. Bamboo has tons of applications. I am happy to see it used more instead of plastic or fiberglass 🙂

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