It doesn’t surprise me that the guy who invented the practical cardboard bike is Israeli. It’s a very entrepreneurial country.

Now, anyone can build a cardboard bike. I could, but it would just collapse it anyone tried to ride it. We've seen some clever wooden bikes before, but this is a cardboard bike. Izhar Gafni went further, and for $9 in parts and after a year and a half of trial-and-error, he came up with a mass-producible design that could retail for $20 to $60. He says that mass production of the bike will begin in just a few months. Will this invention change the world, or will it fail to catch on, like the Segway?

The bike has no metal parts, and even the bearings are made of recycled materials (Gafni won’t say what). The secret is a mysterious resin coating that makes the bike both water- and fire-proof. Longevity is unknown, but a pushbike Gafni made for his daughter is still on the road after months.

The bike (right), which weighs only about 20 pounds, seems to be headed for production. It’s aimed at helping put some of the world’s poorest countries, including in Africa and South America, on wheels. At Inhabit, a commenter wrote: “Exciting! We are missionaries in Central America and can see a tremendous positive impact that this bike could bring to the poor here. Can we get more info on importing this technology?”

Gafni, who was inspired by reports of a cardboard canoe, told Reuters, “Making a cardboard box is easy and it can be very strong and durable, but to make a bicycle was extremely difficult and I had to find the right way to fold the cardboard in several different directions. It took a year and a half with lots of testing and failure until I got it right.” Do you think the Wright Brothers did it this way? Well, yes. But they didn’t call upon the principles of Japanese origami, as Gafni did.

Here's a look at the cardboard bike on video:

As I said, Israelis are entrepreneurial. I met the co-author of "Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle" in Jerusalem earlier this year. The book is introduced with the intriguing story of Shai Agassi and Better Place, but forget about that for a minute. According to the book, Israel boasts “the highest density of start-ups in the world (a total of 3,850 start-ups, one for every 1,844 Israelis), more Israeli companies are listed on the NASDAQ exchange than all the companies from the entire European continent….In 2008, per-capita venture investments in Israel were 2.5 times greater than in the U.S., more than 30 times greater than in Europe [and] 80 times greater than in China…”

I’m looking at a list of Israel’s top 45 inventions of all time, and they include:

  • Given imaging, the “gold standard” for visualizing and detecting disorders of the digestive tract;
  • Netafilm micro-irrigation, which is for water-challenged countries (like Israel). It releases small amounts of water in controlled, slow drops;
  • BabySense, a non-radioactive device that monitors a baby’s breathing and movements, designed to block the scourge of crib death;
  • EpiLady, a women’s electric hair remover (30 million sold since 1986);
  • Pythagoras Solar, developer of the world’s first transparent solar window;
  • Disk-on-Key, the first USB flash drive;
  • Like-a-Fish, a device for extracting air from water, quite useful for professional scuba divers.

And tons more. Like I said, an entrepreneurial country, whether or not Better Place emerges stronger than ever after the departure of Shai Agassi.

Related on MNN: 5 low-tech innovations making a difference in the developing world

Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.

For $9 in materials, a practical cardboard bike
Izhar Gafni, an inventor in a remarkably entrepreneurial country, experimented for a year and a half and is now preparing to mass-market a durable bike made fro