Bamboo Bike Project

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Bamboo Bike Project
Industry Non-profit
Founded 2007
Founder David Ho, John Mutter
Headquarters Palisades, NY
Products Bamboo Bicycles

The Bamboo Bike Project was started by two scientists at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), David Ho and John Mutter, with initial funding coming from The Earth Institute at Columbia University. The project's goal is to help local investors start factories that make low cost, high quality, locally produced bamboo bikes to be widely distributed in Sub-Saharan Africa.


In 2006, David Ho, now a Professor of Oceanography at University of Hawaii at Manoa,[1] won $25,000 in a seed funding competition from the Earth Clinic[1][2] to determine the feasibility of using bamboo bicycles to provide improved transportation in sub-Saharan Africa. In the summer of 2007, Ho and his colleague John Mutter, using the seed money from the Earth Clinic, paid for Craig Calfee to join them on a trip to Accra, Ghana to determine the feasibility of building bamboo bikes using locally sourced material.[3]

After a successful trip, the Bamboo Bike Project teamed up with the Millennium Cities Initiative in 2008 to help establish bamboo bike building factories in Kumasi and elsewhere.[4] The project also added Marty Odlin, who was a product design and development engineer at K2 Sports.[5]

2008 also saw the release of a KPMG-authored report that examined the feasibility and investment opportunity of implementing a bamboo bicycle production facility in Kumasi, Ghana.[6] This was followed a year later by a similar study for Kisumu, Kenya by graduate students at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).[7]


The listed goals of the Bamboo Bike Project are:

  1. To build a better bike for poor Africans in rural areas.
  2. To stimulate a bicycle building industry in Africa to satisfy local needs.
  3. To set up systematic bamboo cargo bike building training.
  4. To set up a supply chain of necessary parts and supplies.
  5. To scale the effort so that it makes an impact.

Impact of bicycles[edit]

Experiments done in Africa (Uganda and Tanzania) and Sri Lanka on hundreds of households have shown that a bicycle can increase the income of a poor family by as much as 35%.[8]

Benefits of bamboo frames vs. steel frames in Africa[edit]

Bamboo is an excellent material for building bicycle frames. Bamboo frames are lighter and stronger than poor quality steel bicycles, typically imported from China or India, which are currently available in Africa. The production of bamboo bicycles requires much less equipment, energy and capital than steel frames. Bamboo is grown throughout Africa and is a readily available cost effective material.

The manufacturing of bamboo frames does not require a reliable electrical source, making it possible to manufacture these frames at a large scale in impoverished areas lacking the infrastructure to support traditional manufacturing facilities. The use of local bamboo also provides employment in the production, transport and final use of this material. The use of this material promotes economic development and environmental sustainability while providing cost effective transport.[9]

Ghana production facility[edit]

In January 2011, the Bamboo Bike Project (BBP) held a two-week training program designed to teach local workers in Kumasi how to build bamboo bicycles. It is the project's first large-scale bamboo bike production facility in the world. This facility is controlled by Bamboo Bikes Limited (BBM), a Ghana-based company owned by investor Kwame Sarpong. The training program was used to begin the production of 750 bamboo bicycles which were to be distributed to NGOs located throughout Ghana.

The production of these bicycles was to provide the managing company BBM an opportunity to evaluate the facility's capacity for large-scale production and provide adequate experience for the workers to begin large-scale production. With the completion of the training program and the production of these first 750 bicycles, the plant became the first facility capable of mass-producing bamboo bicycles in the world. It is projected that this facility will be capable of producing up to 20,000 bamboo bicycles a year.

Manufacturing at this scale will provide employment, keep costs low, and make available cost-effective transport to the local people.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Conversation: David Ho, Environmental Scientist with a New Spin on Bikes. Cogito (December 18, 2008). Retrieved on November 11, 2011.
  2. ^ Seed Funding Competition Year 2006 – 2007 – The Earth Institute – Columbia University. Retrieved on November 11, 2011.
  3. ^ Bamboo Bike Project. (June 16, 2007). Retrieved on November 11, 2011.
  4. ^ Millennium Cities Initiative – Bamboo Bike Project. (January 24, 2011). Retrieved on November 11, 2011.
  5. ^ Bamboo Bike Project Blog. Retrieved on November 11, 2011.
  6. ^ Bamboo Bike Project Blog. Retrieved on November 11, 2011.
  7. ^ Bamboo Bike Project Blog. Retrieved on November 11, 2011.
  8. ^ "Bicycle: The Unnoticed Potential". Retrieved 2011-11-11. 
  9. ^ a b "Production Starts on Sustainable Bamboo Bikes in Ghana". Earth Institute, Columbia University. Retrieved 2011-11-11. 

External links[edit]