For two months this summer, four Portland State bicyclists will embark on a cross-country journey that will extend from Greensboro, Ala., to San Francisco.
Biking on bamboo
For two months this summer, four Portland State bicyclists will embark on a cross-country journey that will extend from Greensboro, Ala., to San Francisco. Their mode of transportation: bicycles made from Alabama-grown bamboo.
The riders—students and sisters Nicole and Rose Lavelle, Marc Obrien and Jason Dilworth—will arrive in Greensboro on May 23 and are hoping to set out by June 1.
The “Alabamboo” ride is the result of a number of different projects, organizations and ideas coming together to promote the sustainable and domestic growth of bamboo.
The three main organizations involved with the project are the Bamboo Bike Studio, Project M and Common. The members of the ride all met through Project M, a nonprofit organization founded and run by John Beilenberg that gives young, creative designers the opportunity to apply their skills toward positive change in the world.
When the members head down to Alabama, they will meet up with bike builders from the Bamboo Bike Studio, who will help them build the bikes on the spot.
“The bike ride itself is just one small part of the Alabamboo initiative,” Obrien said. “The whole idea is to bring bamboo farming to Alabama and to turn bamboo into a domestic resource.”
The riders hope the project will bring attention to the many opportunities for sustainability that bamboo presents.
“My guess is that four young people on bikes built out of bamboo will draw some attention,” Nicole said.
Nicole’s hope is that this bike ride will be a step toward bamboo becoming as synonymous with Alabama as “oranges are to Florida, or potatoes to Idaho,” she said.
From bamboo floors to cutting boards, bamboo has been gaining popularity as a renewable material in our daily lives, according to Beilenberg. He hopes this ride will spread awareness about the versatility of bamboo to make a variety of different products.
Beilenberg explained that bamboo is an ideal crop for a number of reasons: It doesn’t have to be replanted every time it’s harvested, it doesn’t require pesticides and it sequesters the most carbon out of any plant. It also matures extremely quickly; Beilenberg said that the plant can grow as much as three feet per day.
As great as bamboo is, there is one problem with importing so much of it; it has to be imported from other parts of the world, especially Japan. Nicole pointed out that, while bamboo is an extremely sustainable resource in itself, importing the plant on large ships that use huge amounts of fuel is very unsustainable.
This is where the idea of Alabamboo comes in. If the United States can produce its own bamboo without the need for large cargo ships, then the country will have another sustainable resource at its disposal.
Because of the climate, there is a large area in the southern part of the U.S. that is ideal for growing bamboo, Beilenberg said. He hopes that eventually bamboo will become a cash-crop in the U.S.
“The whole idea is to bring bamboo farming to Alabama and to turn bamboo into a domestic resource,” Obrien said.
The riders plan to camp through most of the two-month period but hope to occasionally stay in a hotel or with sponsors along the way. A number of online supporters have offered the occasional hot shower if the team decides to come through their town, Rose said.
As part of the original plan for the ride, a support vehicle was going to accompany the team on the road, according to Rose. However, after some discussion, the team decided not to bring a support vehicle.
“It just seemed like something else we’d have to worry about,” Rose said, adding that it would also defeat the purpose and intent of their ride, as having a gasoline-burning car riding next to sustainable bamboo bikes seems a bit hypocritical.
While the team aims to end up in San Francisco, they all said that they intend to travel wherever the road takes them. Along the way, the team plans to stop at universities, schools and organizations to spread the word about bamboo and its myriad of potential uses.
The team encourages anyone interested in the project and bamboo to visit their website at www.RideAlabamboo.com.
The ride is supported by a number of larger sponsors, but anyone is welcome to make a donation and become a sponsor at their fundraising website, www.IndieGoGo.com/Alabamboo. The fundraising officially ends tomorrow. ?