The latest product to incorporate everyone’s favourite eco-friendly material is bicycles.
The creator is Craig Calfee, owner of Calfee Design which creates high-performance carbon fibre bikes. But he intends to make affordable bicycles out of bamboo for a very different market: the poor in Africa and Asia. This allows them to get around more easily and hopefully increase employment opportunities.
The intention is honourable, but I’m really not sure it will work out:
Firstly, the bikes are intended to be handmade. This requires skill, which means training, and that costs money.
Secondly, only the frame is made of bamboo. The rest of the bicycle, such as the gears, wheels, chains, pedals, seats and handle bars are made from the usual plastic and metal.
Thirdly, they are not really cheaper than conventional bikes. According to the price list on Calfee’s web site, a bamboo bike designed for professional racing starts from USD2,695. Compare that to his conventional racing bikes which start from only USD1,495.
Why is it so much more expensive? A 80% premium was charged because these bamboo bikes are hand-made and limited production pieces.
But what has that got to do with making bikes more accessible to the poor?
Instead of bamboo bikes, I’ve got a better suggestion: Ship unwanted used bicycles over.
Re-using and helping the poor. Now that’s killing two birds with one stone.