Archive for November, 2008

Greening Kumasi

The next Millennium Cities Initiative (MCI) Investment Day will take place on December 9-10, 2008 in London. The purpose of the event is similar to Kumasi Investment Day New York, which is to bring to the attention of investors commercially viable foreign direct investment opportunities in Kumasi, along with the Millennium Cities of Blantyre (Malawi), Kisumu (Kenya), and Akure (Nigeria).

The Bamboo Bike Project is planning to send a bamboo bike to the event, and will try to attend if possible.  The project was mentioned in the Economist, in a story discussing MCI’s approach of attracting foreign investments to cities in poor countries:

One project in Kumasi is aimed at producing bamboo bicycles for the African market. Kumasi itself would be redesigned to become bike-friendly and the cycles would be made from bamboo grown on reclaimed land in Kumasi, further greening the city. 


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The Columbia Criterium

Working late into the night on bamboo bikes after a long day of work at our day jobs, a little levity always helps to alleviate the fatigue and lift our spirits.

BBP put on The Columbia Criterium, in our own minds the best bike race in the world, but certainly the world’s first and only indoor bamboo bicycle race! The course–0.035 miles around the halls of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory‘s Geochemistry Building, where many great discoveries about the Earth has been made.  The course challenged riders with slick linoleum, flapping seismology posters, and four ninety-degree turns.

Results are below.

General Classification: M. Odlin
Sprints: J. Aguinaldo
King of the Mountains S. Murray

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The Cyclist That Never Sleeps

In order to test different materials and manufacturing methods, the Bamboo Bike Project (BBP) team has been working late into the night.  On Wednesday, we finished the latest round of prototypes. The team wasted no time putting the bicycles to the test, taking them for a midnight ride through Manhattan, over potholes, road plates, and manhole covers.

Marty in Times Square with one of the prototype bikes.

The bicycles handled the Big Apple beautifully, and we’re confident that with a few modifications, it will do just as well on the unpaved roads of rural Ghana.

The team will get right to work on a bamboo lock.

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Unlike steel, aluminum, or carbon bikes, bamboo bikes have not received extensive testing either in laboratory settings or in the professional peloton.  Therefore, it’s important that we test various building methods and materials to achieve the optimal balance between cost of manufacturing (including time and material) and safety.

Bamboo Bike Plans

Bamboo Bike Plans

With three bikes fully assembled and six more well on their way to being completed, we are beginning to assemble a fleet of bamboo bikes that we plan to test.  One of the bikes, built with untreated bamboo, has served as Marty’s commuter bike. In the ride to and from Marty’s office every day, it has been able to withstand many miles of wear on New York City potholes and steam grates, and constant breaking of stop-and-go traffic, and has withstood the rapid and significant changes in winter temperature. 


We are hoping to destroy five of the other bikes we’ve completed thus far, in the name of science.  Each of these prototypes is constructed with slight variations in design and in their component parts; by smashing each to pieces and breaking them in every way we can envision, we will test differences in material strength and rank the crash safety of different models.  In this way, we can ensure that our final bike prototypes are the strongest and safest they can possibly be.

And yet we maintain: our bikes have a future that goes far beyond their effective utilitarian use.  With the aim of keeping our attention focused on the aesthetics of a bamboo bicycle just as much as the strength of it, we are outfitting our final three prototypes with lights, traffic horns, and all the trappings of an eye-catching, exclusively-designed vehicle.

Marty's commuter bike taking shape

Marty's commuter bike taking shape

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Fish needs bicycle

Fish on bicycleJoerg Simon from the Millennium Cities Initiative sent me this photo from the fish market in Kenya a while ago, and I’ve been meaning to share it.  After they loaded the fish onto the bike, they were unable to ride it.  These guys needed a bamboo cargo bike.

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