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Bamboo Bicycles >>> Riding Towards Sustainability


Months ago I came across a wonderful website called Barcelona Creativa (http://creativa.barcelona.cat/en/). It exposes innovative ideas that are being implemented by entrepreneurs in Barcelona city, Spain. One of the projects that caught my attention was the one created by two Catalan students. The initiative introduced a new concept of an urban bicycle made with sustainable materials such as bamboo and natural fibres. Who’d have thought! A bamboo frame bicycle? Why bamboo? Some bamboo species have better tensile and compression strength than steel. Besides, it is even harder than oak, considered the most durable hardwood. However, one thing that popped into my head was if it was resistant enough to humidity changes. What happens if you live and ride in a country with wet weather? After some research, I was surprised to know that Bamboo has great resistance to expansion and contraction associated with temperature and humidity changes, including the water resistance. They are organic, sustainable, non-polluting and recyclable. Bamboo is also a rapidly renewable material, its harvest cycle is under 10 years, which means that bamboo can be grown and harvested within 10 years. Moreover, bamboo plantations consume CO2 at rapid rates while growing and cultivation does not require the use of pesticides. We must admit that, in sustainability terms, it is a clear winner compared with bicycles made with steel, aluminium or titanium which is highly energy intensive in its production process and when it comes to CO2 emissions, for producing just 1 kg of aluminium the emissions are approximately 17 kg of CO2 to the atmosphere.

Thus, a simple and natural thought, why not use bamboo to make bicycle frames. In big cities in the US and Europe, riding has nearly doubled in the last decade and using bicycles for daily commute to work and play has become even more popular. Also, biking is not only an easy way to exercise and maintain good health; it is also a perfect choice to help our planet! Additionally, if the bike is made of bamboo, it is a double plus. Artisanal, custom built bamboo bikes have become something of a trend for eco-conscious cyclists in some countries.

A similar project exists in India: Bangalore-based entrepreneur Vijay Sharma decided to take up the challenge of “greening up” cycling and has created the Bambike and is trying to get it into commercial production. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/ecofriendly-bicycle-goes-in-search-of-the-best-bamboo/article4064970.ece The Indian economy is primed for growth at the moment where sustainable transport must be made as one of the major priorities in the coming years, especially since there are big cities supporting huge populations with a lot of traffic. Hence, bamboo bikes is a very good option and cycling must be encouraged in cities. People in the West want to own a Bambike — it’s a social symbol to own a handcrafted, eco-friendly bike. However, People in India, on the other hand could view bamboo bikes as a cheap option at first mention when this is clearly not the case in fact it could be more expensive since it is handcrafted and requires more time to be produced. Hence, this calls for better campaigning and awareness in India about bamboo bicycles and there is the need to create a business model so that bamboo bikes can be made more affordable and desirable compared to conventional bicycles. Where are the entrepreneurs of India. Start considering it, go green!

About the Author

Ariadna Caixach is completing a dual MSc in Sustainability, Technology and Innovation, a program run between Purdue University (USA), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (Spain), and Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland). Her major is Building Engineering and she is a Catalan girl from Barcelona (Spain) currently living in Dublin (Ireland). She is passionate about writing, sustainable development and green living, and her specialitzation is sustainable architecture and cities, energy-efficiency and sustainable tourism. You can find out more about her at: http://itecosocialnetworld.wordpress.com

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