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Archive for April, 2009

In February, we brought you news of the student research team at Columbia University’s graduate School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) working to assess the feasibility of bringing bamboo bikes to Kisumu, Kenya. Kat Athanasiades, Michelle Eames, Riham Hussein, and Young Rhee will present their final report and business plan to the public this Thursday at 4:50pm in SIPA room 1512.  We sat down with Kat before the team’s big day, to learn more about their recent return trip to Kenya, the insights they gained, and some details of their final proposal to the UN Millennium Cities Initiative.

Learning about bamboo in Kenya

Learning about bamboo in Kenya

For two weeks in mid-March, this SIPA team traveled through Kisumu and the surrounding region collecting market data and information on bamboo infrastructure.  They collected information on the pricing costs of potential factory components, as well as detailed information on labor costs, import taxes, and industry fees.  They attempted to size the potential bamboo bicycle market, using the KPMG-authored Ghana study as a partial model.  They worked to determine who would be able to afford the cost of a bamboo bicycle (at the same time that they investigated ways to drive down the potential cost of a bamboo bike to significantly less than what is available now in Kisumu, by pricing with Chinese components), and they identified three principle markets for sturdy bamboo cargo bikes in Kenya: boda boda drivers, community health workers, and rural students and commuters (many of them women who travel daily to the urban market stalls they staff during the day).  The team brought back a good deal of demographic information that will also translate well into market information for the final study to be presented this week.

Bamboo in the sun

Bamboo in the sun

The team met with representatives of Kenyan professional organizations like the Boda Boda Association, giving these leaders the opportunity to test-ride bamboo bicycles that Kat and crew brought from New York.  They encountered nothing but receptive responses, and encouragement.  They left a good deal of excitement about bamboo bicycles in their wake!

The group also visited the Kenya Forest Research Institute, where they learned that the bamboo industry in Kenya is already in its primary stages of development!  Bamboo in Kenya is already being harvested and used to make a number of specialty crafts items ranging from tables and chairs to kitchenware, and is also burned in the form of bamboo charcoal.  Contacts at the African Bamboo Center in Kisumu say that this industry could likely supply enough bamboo to support a bamboo bike factory in the very near future!

Nashan, head of Boda Boda Association, on a Bamboo Bike

Nashan, head of Boda Boda Association, on a Bamboo Bike

Nashan riding away

Nashan riding away

Come to the Columbia University School of International Affairs, room 1512, this Thursday at 4:50 to learn more about the intricacies of the business plan to be presented by Kat, Michelle, Riham, and Young.  We certainly look forward to it!

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Tantalus Time Trial

The Tantalus Time Trial is the oldest running bicycle race in Hawaii, and takes place in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. For those who know the area, the race starts on Makiki Heights Drive, approximately 100 meters before the first hairpin turn. Racers climb to Tantalus Drive, turn right, and climb to the parking lot at the top of the hill (Just before Tantalus turns into Round Top Drive).

Katharina and Ron proudly displaying their Bamboo Bike Project jerseys

Katharina and Ron proudly displaying their Bamboo Bike Project jerseys

Two residents of Hawaii, Katharina Pahnke and Ron Ogomori entered the race as members of the Bamboo Bike Project.  Normally, when a company or organization sponsors a rider, they pay for the expenses of the rider.  In this case, what we have is reverse-sponsoring, where the riders pay for the jerseys, and then help promote the project by training and racing in our jersey.

 

Katharina checking out eventual winner Shannon Cutting, while rounding one of the hairpins on Tantalus

Katharina checks out eventual winner Shannon Cutting, while she rounds one of the hairpins on Tantalus Drive

Both Katharina and Ron did well in their respective races.  Katharina did especially well in her first ever bicycle race, placing 2nd (with a finishing time under 26 minutes) behind a very experienced Shannon Cutting.

If you would like to share pictures of yourself in your Bamboo Bike Project jersey, please feel free to send them to us along with your story.

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Bamboo Bike Project Clothing!

Support the Bamboo Bike Project by purchasing a t-shirt!  Show off your commitment to sustainability initiatives with a fashionable brown tee replete with blue Bamboo Bike Project logo:

t-shirt logo

T-Shirt Logo

Your purchase will directly fund our efforts to develop a bamboo bike-building factory in Ghana, with all proceeds going toward paying for raw materials.  Check out this shirt-wearer in action:

Marissa Wearing Shirt and Riding Bamboo Bike

Marissa Wearing Shirt and Riding Bamboo Bike

Find out how you can buy a shirt here.  As always, you are also welcome to donate to our project online; all donations are tax deductible.

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Marty Odlin, engineer extraordinaire for the Bamboo Bike Project and assistant director of the Columbia University Center for Sustainable Engineering, will be heading off to Ghana in the coming week!  Marty will join a team in Ghana comprised of potential investors, scientists, and engineers, as he oversees field tests that will be run on our prototype bicycles!

After receiving the bamboo bikes that we sent some weeks ago, our contacts in Ghana ran some preliminary market tests to gauge interest in the product.  The encouraging feedback they received has led them to begin the next stage of product development: product testing in the field, under the conditions and stresses that a bamboo bike would face when put to daily use by local residents.

Because the bamboo bike models being used by this Ghanaian team are prototypes, Marty decided it would be a good idea to be present at these field tests; better understanding the way these prototypes fare will enable him to refine the designs of future models.  The Bamboo Bike Project also hopes that Marty will be able to answer all possible questions that might arise concerning engineering and structural mechanics, as well as assess any problems should they arise.

Marty will be in close contact with us throughout his trip to Ghana so stay tuned for updates on his travels and his findings!

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