In Cuba, Bamboo Bikes Transport People, Transform Lives

Aug 7, 2023

Getting around can be tricky in Havana. That's Cuba's capital. Streets are often backed up with mopeds, rickshaws, and vintage cars that spew exhaust. They're the result of ten years of economic sanctions that have made bringing in newer vehicles tricky. One company, though, thinks it has a solution to the crowded, smoggy streets. The idea? Bamboo bicycles.     

"There are 28 species of bamboo in Cuba," Nayvis Diaz told Reuters. She's the founder of bike shop Velo Cuba. "Fortunately, here we have the two, three species needed to make these bicycles."

Bamboo is a sturdy grass that grows quickly. Its stalks are light. They can be as strong as tree branches. That makes bamboo good for building bicycles and repairing them. This is especially true in Cuba, which can't get the resources usually used to make bikes.     

The bamboo bike program is supported by funds from the Netherlands. The European country has been at the forefront of eco-friendly development in the Caribbean and around the world. With Dutch assistance, Velo Cuba runs workshops for the people of Havana. It teaches them how to build and repair the bikes. The people who learn these skills include stay-at-home moms and members of the deaf community.

"It's important for us to learn a profession," Yaquelin Gonzalez, who is deaf, told Reuters. "This will help us in the future."

People around Havana have already taken to the bamboo bikes. They’re a fixture on bike paths along the island nation’s coast. Diaz hopes that as interest grows, so too will opportunities for bike-makers like Gonzalez, who may go on to work at Velo Cuba or start a shop of her own.

Photo from Reuters.

Reflect: How can learning a new skill contribute to a person's sense of self-worth and confidence, and how might it positively impact their community?

Which two words used in the story indicate to the reader that the author organized the information in the story using a problem and solution text structure? (Common Core RI.5.5; RI.6.5)
a. crowded and build
b. solution and idea
c. skills and community
d. profession and workshops
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