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Fixing Economies with Bikes and Bamboo : A Tale of Two Startups

Originally posted in Nov. 2011 at’s site here

Two companies on either side of the Atlantic are attempting to use bicycles to turn around economies and more, here is their story.

Baisikeli, Denmark: Is located in the world’s most bicycle friendly country, so it’s not a surprise that they have focused their energies around this bike culture. The company buys abandoned bikes from Danish insurance companies (yes, in places like Denmark, insurance companies cover the loss of your bicycle) that go uncollected. Baisikeli, is swahili for bicycles. The company fixes up the bikes and rents them out to Danish folks for a season. After the bikes are used for a season they are shipped off to Mozambique, and some other places in Africa.

In Africa the bikes are sold at competitive prices and provide mobility for the locals and at times rebuilt as ambulance bikes. In Mozambique, Baisikeli has teamed up with a local hospital and also created a bike workshop to train locals on how to fix bikes that are broken.The goal of Baisikeli’s work in Africa is to create internal economic growth for people in the various regions.

In Copenhagen, Baisikeli is making good profits from their business of recycling bikes. They are considered one of the cheapest bike rentals. You can even contact them via their site to request bike rentals prior to being in Denmark. They just opened up a shop in Copenhagen, where you can get fair trade coffee and also work on your bike.

Alabamboo, US: What do bamboo, bikes and Alabama have in common? The answer is Alabamboo, a startup looking to mobilize the American economy by increasing production of bamboo in the country. This summer a group of Alabamboo folks who are also part of Project M, a non-profit that promotes positive change using design, took part in a cross country trip using bicycles they made themselves out of bamboo. The bicycles were not only durable, more eco-friendly than normal bicycle production, but also a way to promote the cause of more bamboo production inside USA. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing crops, with some species growing over 100cm overnight! People in Alabama sees this as an opportunity for Americans to decrease their dependance on importing bamboo. The USA is the largest importers of bamboo in the world, most of which is shipped from south Asia.

Naureen Nayyar is writing from Europe for Dutiee. She can be reached via @norabean on twitter

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