For ages, transportation has transformed societies. Ever since the invention of fixed wheels on carts (3500 BC), the domestication of horses (2000 BC), and creation of a gasoline engine automobile (Lenoir, 1862), man has relied on efficient design and harnessing energy from external sources to propel ourselves from one place to another. In Western culture, automobiles and airplanes provide the luxury to expand businesses, visit loved ones, transport resources, and receive aid when needed. I frequently find myself annoyed at delays in the Metro system or flights, rather than appreciating the fact that I am able to travel across the country in merely hours.
Vort Port International (VPI) has begun a new project called bamboo bikes, providing much-needed basic transportation for regions around the world that can greatly benefit from a technology such as a bicycle. The new leader of this project, Song Nguyen, spent some time volunteering in Uganda at a non-profit called Restless Development, Uganda, she noted that in her interviews with Ugandans, one of the items they needed the most was a bicycle. They expressed the ceaseless limitations lacking a bicycle had on their daily lives, from access to basic needs of survival to healthcare. However, the cost of bicycles in Uganda are cost prohibitive for the average family, and the maintenance of the bikes are typically too difficult to access.
VPI is inspired by the Bamboo Bike Project, which was started out of Columbia University, and is working to design, prototype, test, and bring affordable and sustainable bicycles to rural communities that need it most. Bamboo itself is one of the fastest growing, sturdiest plants in the world, with the ability to grow up to 39 inches in just 24 hours. Furthermore, bamboo can be frequently found in the damp, jungle climate of Uganda.
I am excited not only to bring these products to people around the world, but to work with Song and her team to establish an educational plan so that the consumers of the bamboo bikes understand how to fix, maintain, and afford their bikes. In the future, we will explore add-ons to increase the ability for an individual to resources. These bicycles will hopefully bring the ability for a family to access food and water, medications, and critical resources in a timely manner.
This article was written by Merry Walker, who is the Executive Director of Vort Port International. She currently resides in Washington DC.