MEXICO CITY -- Diego Cárdenas hovers over a bicycle frame that stands wheel-less on a worktable as he sands down a bamboo pipe—the primary component of his distinctive Bamboocycle.
On a quest to cut back his commute three years ago, the 25-year-old industrial designer went hunting for a bike. When he didn't find what he wanted, he decided to build his own. He wanted something light, handsome and environmentally friendly. He settled on bamboo.
Now his sleek bicycles made of locally sourced bamboo and fabricated carbon fiber have found their way into Mexico City's Museum of Modern Art and into the pages of magazines in Mexico, France, the U.S. and China.
"My goal is for bikes to be considered the ideal form of transportation in Mexico City," Cárdenas said.
He's got good timing.
Mexico City is in the midst of a two-wheeled revolution. The city's Ecobici bike loan program -- in which users pay a minimal annual fee for the right to borrow the red and white bicycles for 45-minute intervals -- recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. Before that, bike lanes were already being drawn around town, including a dedicated corridor along Mexico City's principal avenue, Reforma.
It's not unusual now to see a businessman in a suit, briefcase strapped into the Ecobici's front basket, pedaling off to a meeting. While Mexico City certainly isn't Copenhagen (where more than a third of commuters ride a bike), cyclists are now omnipresent in the city's hippest neighborhoods.
Bamboocycles has sold 80 bikes so far, largely to buyers in Mexico although a few have been shipped to the U.S. Bamboocycles lack gear shifts; they weigh about 10 kilos, or 22 pounds, and cost 9,500 pesos, or about US$700.
Cárdenas rides a Bamboocycle with tomato-red tape wrapped around the handlebars. He says his friends call him whenever they see a Bamboocycle on the street. At the rate he’s going, his phone should soon be ringing off the hook.