Among the urgent measures to alleviate the transportation crisis in Cuba, the Ministry of Transportation (MITRANS) has recently called for a greater use of bicycles as an alternative. In this context, a workshop in Havana is manufacturing this type of vehicle, but with special characteristics: its structure is made of bamboo.
Vélo Cuba, a Cuban cycle mobility enterprise led by women, has been promoting the use of bicycles since 2014 through rental services, tourist routes in the city and social initiatives. In addition, it collaborates with the City Historian Office in the management of the Ha’Bici public bicycle rental service in Old Havana and has a mechanics school for these vehicles.
However, in 2022 they decided to undertake the bamboo bike project, which has “a lot of research and productive chaining,” project director Nayvis Díaz Labaut told SEMLAC at the time.
With the idea of substituting imports, Díaz Labaut assured last year that she was researching with specialists from the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden to find out the type of bamboo that each part used, while they connected with people in Pinar del Río who would prepare a natural resin.
“The jute we are going to use is from Granma; we are going to replace the fiberglass with another produced in the country,” she pointed out.
According to Reuters, this idea of Velo Cuba to produce light and ecological mobility options is inserted in a program financed by the Embassy of the Netherlands.
Of the first eight built in 2022, four were donated to the Zoo in Havana’s Vedado, but the exact amount developed to date is not specified.
Tocororo Bamboo Bikes
It is not the only project for this purpose. In the context of the International Crafts and Gifts Fair (Fiart 2022), Tocororo Bamboo Bikes, a project of two Iranian brothers living in Canada, signed a letter of intent with the Cuban Fund for Cultural Assets to produce vehicles with these characteristics.
Afshin Kalabi, one of its promoters, pointed out to Excelencias that they thought of the island to bring this business, “since we like the country a lot.” They have four models of ecological bicycles, which stand out for their resistance and low weight.
During Fiart 2022, Tocororo Bamboo Bikes planned to create wheelchairs with Cuban bamboo for people with special abilities.
The crisis marches… on wheels
Passenger transportation is going through one of its worst moments in recent years, according to Luis Ladrón de Guevara, a MITRANS official. If in 2017 more than two million people were transported on the island, five years later it barely exceeds a million, he pointed out.
The objective of the sector is to achieve a “gradual recovery” of services within three years, said Ladrón de Guevara. Such an aspiration includes changing the energy matrix, rescuing as many damaged media as possible and restoring investments.