Zambikes, innovative and inexpensive bikes designed to be built and used in Africa

By | December 30, 2010

As a design professor at San Diego State University, I interact with young adults all the time, so was particularly inspired by the vision of Dustin McBride and Vaughn Spethmann, two young men from Rancho Peñasquitos, California, who founded Zambikes to build strong bikes for the rugged Zambian terrain. McBride and Spethmann recently teamed up with American bicycle designer Craig Calfee of Bamboosero and are also producing bicycles made of bamboo. Their process exemplifies qualities of good design: identifying a critical concern, listening and being sensitive to the needs of the community, and responding with an effective solution.

I first read about Zambikes in The San Diego Union-Tribune in a letter to the editor from Diane Spethmann of Rancho Peñasquitos. Her letter was published in the “Community Dialog” section of the Thursday, December 23, 2010, issue in response to an article published on December 5, 2010: “Project putting garbage to work wins prize.” The article, as Spethmann stated in her letter “rightfully highlighted Long Way Home for winning the BBC/Newsweek World Challenge, which recognizes grass-roots efforts to better communities. Long Way Home developed an effective way to use unwanted tires to build much-needed schools. The story,” she continues, “missed an opportunity to mention that one of the 12 finalists was Zambikes, founded and run by two San Diego County men, Dustin McBride and Vaughn Spethmann of Ranch Peñasquitos. In the three years they have lived in Zambia, McBride and Spethmann have trained and employed 30 Zambians to manufacture and distribute bicycles, bicycle-drawn cargo carts and ‘zambulances,’ and are now making bike frames out of locally grown bamboo. Using microfinance loans, their bicycle products empower entrepreneurs to start businesses, and the bicycle-drawn zambulance enables people in remote areas to receive medical attention, thereby saving lives.”

According to The World Challenge website, 2010 was “the sixth year of The World Challenge Competition and our 12 finalists again raise the bar for sustainable enterprises that are putting something back into their communities. They are all boosting livelihoods and improving living standards without wrecking the environment.”

View the 12 finalists at The World Challenge website and learn more about the organization.

Learn more about Zambikes and Bamboosero from the following videos and website:

Zambikes, Not only building bikes but changing lives

How we make bamboo bikes and trailers


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