Cardboard Bicycles: Would YOU Ride One?
Every morning, people around the world get up and take their usual transportation to work or school. But what is their usual transportation? In North America it might be the car, but it’s a different story in many other parts of the world. In most countries, the most common form of transportation is the bicycle. According to National Geographic, people around the planet own 800 million bicycles – which is twice as many as the number of cars. New technology in the bicycle world can affect the lives of millions of people worldwide, just as it did almost two hundred years ago.
People have dreamed of riding on wheels for centuries. In the 1400’s, the inventor Leonardo da Vinci developed the idea of a machine like our modern bicycles but never made one. In 1840, an inventor from Scotland rode more than sixty kilometres on a two-wheeled machine operated by a foot-powered treadle. Twenty years later, a French inventor developed the idea to include cranks and rotating pedals, much like modern bicycles. In 1860, people first started to use the term “bicycle” for the new machine.
Air-filled (pneumatic) tires were the next development in the bicycle’s story. Next, people developed different bicycles for all kinds of uses: sleek and lightweight racing bikes, heavy but sturdy all-terrain bikes and much more. The basic structure is the same, however: a metal frame with air-filled rubber tires which help to cushion the rider against bumps in the road. These bikes can be expensive to buy and they need frequent maintenance (especially for punctured tires), but who would think of making them any other way?
An Israeli inventor named Izhar Gafni hopes to solve the some of the traditional bicycle’s problems with his new invention: cardboard bicycles with solid rubber tires. The tires, made from recycled rubber car tires, can’t get punctured because they have no air in them. Almost all of the rest of the bicycle is made from recycled cardboard, with a car’s timing belt instead of a chain. The outside of the bicycle is covered with a special coating to make it waterproof and fireproof and is then painted. Each bicycle weighs about nine kilograms instead of the usual fourteen kilograms for metal bicycles.
The low-cost of the new bicycles could make a huge difference in places like Africa, where people might not be able to afford a traditional bike. Even if the bicycles last only a few years, they could give people the transportation they need to go to school, go to their jobs and maybe even get out of poverty. When these bicycles come into stores, they will likely cost about $20 instead of the hundreds or even thousands of dollars a metal bike can cost.
If Izhar Gafni’s invention works, it could affect much more than just bicycles. Airplanes or cars made out of cardboard would be much lighter than metal ones and use less fuel, making travel cheaper. It could change the world’s transportation systems forever.