5 Bike Infrastructure Solutions to Make Cycling Easier
As high-tech as NASA or as simple as ABC – bike infrastructure that makes cycling easier is always welcome. We have had a look at five different solutions, which make cycling more comfortable and attractive.
1. Take a Breather Without Dismounting
A metal rail with a footrest is far from a high-tech innovation, but it is a very welcome idea for cyclists. In Copenhagen, these supports are typically found at junctions, together with a friendly message: “Hi, cyclist! Rest your foot here… and thank you for cycling in the city.” A small idea goes a long way. As everyone knows, once a stop is in sight, cyclists are looking for the nearest object to rest against. This is clear from the worn areas visible on the sides of traffic lights and lampposts. Copenhagenize calls these “Bicycle Culture Buddhas”. This innovation is a benefit for everyone, as intelligent design leads to intelligent behaviour. The more convenient it is to wait at a junction, the more disciplined and patient the cyclist will be.
2. Green Wave
Phased traffic lights ensuring a “green wave” at major traffic arteries have long been a standard fixture for motorised traffic in many cities. In Copenhagen, Amsterdam and San Francisco, some traffic light systems for motorised traffic take cyclists into account. Since 2009, Valencia Street in San Francisco is the first street to offer a green wave for cyclists in both directions. Cyclists travelling at 15-18 km/h in Amsterdam will never be stopped by a red light. And in Copenhagen, those travelling at 20 km/h through Nørrebrogade, Østerbrogade and Amagerbrograde will enjoy green lights all the way. As bike computers are rare on city bikes, LEDs help to maintain speed. In the future, the Danish capital will go a step further and automatically change traffic lights to green when groups of more than five cyclists are waiting. Bike Citizens is also currently looking into intelligent traffic light operations as part of the Bike Wave project.
3. Solar Power Under the Wheels
The 70-metre-long cycling path between Krommenie and Wormerveer in the Netherlands cost €3 million to construct. This cost will soon be recovered thanks to its extraordinary properties. Instead of asphalt, the path is made of solar panels which, in the final version, will supply three homes with electricity. In 2016, the path will be extended to 100 metres in length. The Dutch plans certainly do not stop there. The aim is to install solar panels on 20% of all roads in the country, enough to supply the entire infrastructure, from traffic lights to electric vehicles to electric bikes, with power. Solar roadways are also in development in the USA. However, the use of solar panels as a cycling path is not a simple matter. Due to the flat orientation of the panels, their efficiency is 30% lower than that of solar panels on house roofs. The coating also needs to be sufficiently non-slip for tyres and smooth enough for dirt not to stick on the panels.
4. Effortlessly King of the Mountains
Cyclists in Trondheim, Norway, have Jarle Wanvik to thank that they can now climb the Brubakken hill, at a length of 130 metres and with a steepness of 10 to 18 percent, by bicycle lift. The designer and cycling enthusiast presented his idea to the city to make the hill less daunting, and in 1993 the Trampe bicycle lift was installed. It is simple to use – one foot goes on the lift, the other on the pedal of the bike. The cable built into the kerb propels the footrest along with the cyclist and bicycle slowly up the hill (at a speed of approx. 4-5 km/h). The Trampe lift was used 220,000 times and was replaced by a new version known as CycloCable in 2013. Every 12 seconds cyclists can climb with ease the Brubakken.
5. Automated Bicycle Parking
Train stations are real hot spots for cyclists. Legions of people descend on them during peak times, and it is difficult to find a free spot or to locate your bicycle. As a renowned technological pioneer, Japan has developed a practical solution. Kasai train station in Tokyo has set up an automatic parking area with space for 6,480 bicycles. Registered users can place their bike (fitted with a chip) into a machine, and a robotic arm will then store it away automatically in an underground storage area. They use a chip card to retrieve their bike, and they are back on the saddle within around 20 seconds. Sounds too good to be true? Automated bicycle parking has been a reality in Japan since 2006. For around €20 per month, you can secure yourself a weatherproof and safe parking spot.
Image © James Schwartz (CC BY-ND 2.0) on flickr