A group of activists and artisans in the small Alabama town of Greensboro (population 2,497) are bucking the trend of declining manufacturing and unemployment across the South with an unlikely solution: making high-end bikes from bamboo grown on the side of the road.
“We are always looking for materials we can make something from, and neighbors are always complaining about how hard bamboo is to get rid of,” explains Pamela Dorr, executive director of HERO, the community development nonprofit in Greensboro that’s spearheading the project. “As we talked to designers and friends about what could be done, we learned about the DIY bikes at Bamboo Bike Studio in Brooklyn and started working with them as a partner.”
The result is a product line called HERObikes. The third model, the Semester, recently debuted on Kickstarter. Built from hexagonal tubes made from bamboo and lined with carbon fiber, “the look of the Semester Bike is designed to be minimal and sparse,” says Door. The bike will retail for $850.
HERObike currently employs two people in its shop, according to Dorr, while the main arm of the nonprofit employes another 30, focused on its mission of alleviating rural poverty through responsible development of housing and community spaces. “When the Kickstarter is complete, HERObike will be able to employ two additional positions to build bamboo bikes,” she says. “We hope this is just the beginning of big changes in our small town.”