Bikes are inherently pretty good for the environment: If everyone in the U.S. living within five miles of work started commuting by bike only one day a week, it would save as much pollution as taking a million cars off the road for a year. But the process of manufacturing bikes could be a little greener. A new design concept from Dan Gestoso Rivers tries to make bike production more sustainable by swapping out a standard metal frame for wood and using components made from recycled soda cans.
Like Ikea furniture—and like a somewhat similar project called the Sandwichbike—the wooden bike is designed to fit in a small box, and a buyer could put the whole thing together using an Allen wrench. "Erasing the assembly stage reduces a lot of time and energy, so flatpacking is the obvious choice," Gestoso explains. "It gives some work to the user, but I also tried to make it easy to assemble at home."
Though it’s made from wood, Gestoso says the bike will be as strong as a typical aluminum frame. It probably won’t be as durable. Since it might have to be replaced more often, it's hard to say how the total environmental impact would stack up against a regular bicycle. But it's clear that it's better in some areas, like the energy used to manufacture the frame. The bike is also intended to revive traditional craftsmanship and support local production.
The design uses sustainably grown wood everywhere possible, and the remaining metal pieces will be made from recycled aluminum or, potentially, metal recycled from discarded bikes. "All of this will allow production to stay local, reducing energy usage in transportation and distribution," Gestoso explains.
The bike is also designed to be easy to repair—unlike a steel frame, it can’t be welded, but broken sections are simple to replace, even at home.
It's also intended to feel a little more natural when you're outside riding. "The idea for all this came one day when I was riding my bike in a small forest near my home," Gestoso says. Surrounded by trees, he started noticing that his shiny blue metallic bike felt out of place. "I felt like a stranger in the natural world, and I hated that feeling. I believe a wooden bike will change that."
Gestoso is currently working on building the prototype and making the frame more durable. "I'm planning to produce this bike some day, but for now it's just a concept," he says.