Bikes for Africa

My current studio project is to design transportation for the refugees and displaced citizens of Africa. Currently many places in Africa are beginning to build bamboo bikes which offer jobs and sustainable transportation. Is there a way to even beat this, a bike that costs meerly nothing? If anyone has any input on transportation or material handling or some of both that would be awesome I need some different opinions! Thanks alot.

home depot tool bags … rigid brand ect… all have bamboo in there instead of using polypropylene. I guess not many folks would know that unless you were doing bags.

lots of absolutely beautiful flooring is being done in bamboo. Its renewable and grows fast as hell… fiber-ous so it is strong and light.

Someday… someone smart at Motorola might start doing recyclable cellular products that gets all the free press.

If you had a bamboo bike in Chicago … you would be all the rage on Friday night critical mass rides.

design-engine: are you referring to this type of bags?

sorry for OT

yep …

the design engine consulting group deeplabs designed a bunch of those for the buyers at home depot for a number of years. difficult working with the Chinese because they don’t follow directions and the buyers seam to love everything the get to sell…

thats awesome but no one really said anything about the bike

Check out the newest copy of IDSA’s Innovation magazine. There is an article on a project to design bikes for Africa.

As far as building the bikes are concerened, from what i have seen bamboo is only used for the tubing, using some sort of epoxy resin and lashing system is to join the tubes. The frame is relativley cheap (and sustainable) to fabricate so the main proportion of the expense of these bikes comes from sourcing componets such as drivetrain and wheels etc. The bikes are usually as simple as possible, sometimes with solid tyres and no brakes/ gears, and need to be robust enough to withstand daily use in extreme climates.

Im pretty sure that many places in Africa recieve used bikes from charitable organisations ( which is as cheap as it gets. It might be worth contacting such organisations and see if they donate parts only in addition to full cycles.

In terms of materials sutable for pedal powered transport, native bamboo/wood etc is fine but only makes up a small section of the final bike, to produce a bike strong enough would definatley need some sort of metal or stronger material involved, adding to the cost. I think a bike that costs nothing to the end user is possible, but as ever there will be ££ involved somwhere.

I have seen this guy in the US creating high-end bamboo bikes, it was on one of those cheesy how its done/made progs on the discovery channel. If i remeber the name, il post it up.

good luck and keep us posted

My current studio project is to design transportation for the refugees and displaced citizens of Africa.

Seems that the brief didn’t call for a bike, so why restrict yourself to bikes? Can you explain your reasoning for choosing a bike and not other modes of transportation?

My “motto” is right answer lies within the right question.

Why bamboo in Africa? Does it grow well there? I’m sure in some areas… why not locally sourced materials?

in the past week we’ve had computer, shoes and bicycle for Africa or African refugees.

I won’t repeat my diatribe.

Just make sure your African refugee’s bicycle can be easily burned for fuel to cook with or can be eaten. If that disagrees with your requirements then make sure your bicycle can carry several tons’ load for years across harsh terrain, inclement weather, and never needs servicing.

I know this is a little off the bamboo-bike main subject, but this is a bike related innovation for developing countries that uses them as a power generator for lights at night. They would reclaim care alternators for the power generation part, the bike supplied pedals and gearing… I know one of the guys and some of the early ideas had a bike that could be hooked up for occasional power generation use.

Maybe it’ll spark some ideas for your project

no it doesnt have to be a bicycle…alternative modes of transportation are encouraged.

These guys went to Africa and taught people in a bunch of different villages how to construct bicycles completely out of natural/found objects (brush, bamboo, random metal pieces, old car tires etc.). These natives then set out to construct and repair bicycles for the people in there village as well as share their knowledge about building bush bikes. Its a pretty cool system but I’m having a hard time finding anymore info about it. I would say a googling is in order.

I think in general one thing to keep in mind is make sure you are thinking about the actual needs of these people. A bike for example could almost be a velocipede (no drivetrain just push) and would still be better than walking while having much less maintenance. It doesn’t need to conform to western standards of quality or durability. I would say the most important part would be maximized flexibility of repair options cause no matter how well designed everything breaks.

Calfee himself seems to say that bamboo for bikes is ideal, but only if you are willing to cull a lot of bamboo to get tubes that have very few defects. I’ll grant that his particular constraint is the light weight necessary to sell in the developed world, so it may be possible to using very thick wall or large bamboo stalks for a peoples’ bike.

In my view, though, a frame material is not really a problem. After all, they have built bikes out of all sorts of stuff. The real issue is that the drive train requires precision components like roller chain, cogs and/or planetary gears. You just cannot make these out of molded adobe or acacia trees. The bikes from Gilligan’s Island are just not feasible if they are to transport people, goats and all the other things necessary for life in a developing country.


that’s a good point about the gearing

is there even that much bamboo in Africa? It seems like it would be more over-abundant in SE Asia

IDEO bike for third world.