We’ve gone overboard recycling when we begin manufacturing two-wheel bicycles out of cardboard.
An Israeli inventor and amateur cyclist, Izhar Gafni, has designed a prototype cardboard bicycle and through years of trial and error improved it to the stage where it is ready to be mass produced, according to Reuters and The Province.
Gafni’s bicycle weighs 20 pounds, about six pounds heavier than a traditional bike, or 30 pounds lighter than my rusted relic.
His bike has no metal parts. That means it has no oily chain to fall off if you lay the bike down when you can’t find something to lean it against. What an anxiety reliever!
Gafni’s bicycle is made 95 percent from recycled cardboard, 5 percent from melted something, but what that something is I couldn’t catch from the accompanying video, and 5 percent from recycled tires.
To give the cardboard the required hardness and strength, it has to be folded origami fashion. We all know how difficult collapsing a corrugated cardboard box can be.
It resists anything short of a sharp box cutter blade zipped up all corners or mangling under the duals of a loaded gravel truck.
Once the thick layer of cardboard is cut to shape, it is treated with a blend of organic materials to make it moisture and fire resistant, followed by a lacquer paint finish.
To achieve circular wheels, the cardboard is notched all around on the inside curve. From a side view the bike presents a broad expanse of flat surface with precious few gaps for air to pass through.
Riding a bike in a brisk cross wind would be akin to a 1965 VW bus travelling across the western half of the new bridge in a 74 kph gale as measured on the Beaufort scale.
The tires, estimated to last for ten years, can never be punctured or deflated. Ponder for a moment the convenience and monetary saving of that feature alone.
The tires on my current bike, of whose age and background I am uncertain, routinely need topping up with the tire pump before I head out.
Not to do so impairs steering and requires more exertion, lessening the enjoyment of my ride.
The bicycle supports a rider weighing 485 pounds. No hint of what might happen under a load of 486 pounds.
Gafni’s prototype will never need maintenance or repairs. Does it squeak? Need lubrication of any kind anywhere such as where the pedals attach? Reuters doesn’t clarify those points.
The bike can be mass produced for $9, sold by retailers for $20, lumping it in with other throwaway products like cell phones and printers that cost more to repair than to replace.
The bike’s manufacturer sees it as an affordable conveyance for people in poorer countries.
And for those of us in more affluent circumstances, we can order them by the dozen, like Timbits or golf balls, and keep a supply of spares on hand in case we wedge a wheel in a sewer grate or back over the bike in the driveway.
In any vehicular collision, the cardboard would spare the vehicle unsightly scratches or dents. But what, if any, forensic evidence might be left at the scene of a hit-and-run?
If the bicycle catches on, stealing them could become as popular a criminal pastime as making off with a $3,000 titanium racer, only with a lot less telltale noise.
Given the amount of corrugated cardboard that now wastefully ends up in landfills worldwide, the manufacturer doesn’t foresee ever running short of material—if people will only ever learn to recycle.