John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Hot-air balloons! Squishy, non-circular wheels! A competition to rethink bicycling in Singapore is producing some strange results.
Every so often, the folks over at Bicycle Design like to stage a conceptual challenge. The last one asked designers to create a bicycle that would motivate a die-hard car person to get out and pedal. (Go figure – the winning idea looked kind of like a car.) Now, the website has put out a call to rethink a bike-sharing project in Asia, and the resulting entries are all sorts of weird and wonderful.
For this contest, Bicycle Design teamed up with Isuda, a pilot bike-share program in Singapore that relies on movable docking stations. Why movable? Because that way, Isuda workers can tow the stations around the city to the places where the most commuters are likely to be, depending on the time of day. The design imperative was to create a new bike that could easily couple with a mobile station, with points given for efficiency, durability, ease of transport and resistance to foul weather. Oh, and they obviously had to be unisex.
I've picked out a few of the more interesting entries, which you can see below listed by descending order of possible real-world production (which is the ultimate goal of the contest). You can see all the entries and vote on your favorite at the Bicycle Design competition page; the designer who reels in the most votes will get a free folding Isuda bike.
This concept from Matthew Boobyer has the best chance of seeing the light of day, in my highly uninformed opinion. Just look at all the features: A station that quickly folds up into a flatbed trailer to hitch onto the back of a truck, a light signal that tells you if bikes are available from a block away, sturdy-looking bikes with storage space for groceries and city maps displayed on the handlebars. The thing that really sold it to me, though, was the "umbrella holder." You gotta have one of those nowadays!
It took me a while to comprehend Vincent Pommel's concept for an animalistic bike share, and even now I'm not sure I understand it all. Basically, it's an e-bike that has a lion for a head and a fish tail for a rear, referencing the mythical "Merlion" that's become Singapore's bizarre mascot. Its seat is raised and lowered by a gas piston, and the onboard electrical system that powers the motor and the lights is charged whenever it's docked at its station. That station is somehow lightweight enough that one person riding a Merlion can hook up to it and drag it through the city, like this:
I'm not sure what mind-altering substances Marcus Burnam was on when he conceived of this barmy bike share, but I want some. Who can't get behind the idea of bike stations floating through the city on stately hot-air balloons? Burnam says the balloons are meant to draw attention to the existence of bike sharing, and explains how the system works this way:
The bikes will be transported between locations by increasing the heat pumped into the balloon so that it may float into the sky with the rack of bikes connected. Once the balloon is at a suitable height a grappling rope can by discharged down to its next docking station using GPS tracking. A member of staff will then connect the grappling rope to the docks winch, so that the balloon can release some of its heat and be slowly drawn down to its next destination.
Once the balloon is docked, customers can come and collect a bike by placing their credit/debit card into the bike and entering their pin code, this will release the locking mechanism on the bike allowing the customer to take it away for a ride.
This idea doesn't seem to have a lot to do about bike sharing, but it's kind of nutty so I'm including it anyway. This concept vehicle swaps out a bike's circular tires for a tread system akin to tanks or snow mobiles. Its creator, Abhimanyu Rajvanshi, says the unconventional "wheels" are meant to help fold the bike and minimize the effect of punctures:
Images used with the permission of Bicycle Design.