This project dealt with the possible synergy of the bicycle and other forms of transport (public and private), for some sort of seamless individual urban transport, as an alternative to the car. The idea has been circulating at least from the seventies, and is gaining popularity in recent years. However, the current bicycle technology is unable to deliver this 'vision'. The currently weight and dimensions of bicycles have not improved over the past thirty years and have remained roughly 12-14 kg and over 100 litres in volume.
Due to their volume, the current 'suitcase size' bicycles are not attractive to public transport operators. Especially if many passengers were to carry one aboard. A 'briefcase size' bicycle would be much more acceptable.
The BIKE INTERMODAL project set out to challenge this. It aims to reduce weight and volume significantly. Thus making 'intermodal bicycling' more attractive. The project objective is to provide (by means of product and process innovations) a lightweight and small folding bicycle. Thus making it practical to carry along a bicycle aboard public transport.
The ultimate goal is integration of public transport and cycling, expanding the share of both modalities in urban mobility. Bicycling, which is efficient over short distances but not on longer distances, could be re-introduced into daily travel adding to a cost-effective modal mix.
The project aims at providing a solution for developing a production-ready new folding bicycle, based on an innovative concept already tested on mock-ups and working models. The advantage is an unprecedented compactness (factor 6 over common folding models) and low weight (factor 3) obtained combining a collapsible, pre-tensioned space-frame with a modern industrial process centred on the use of contemporary engineering plastics.
The crucial innovation of the project was a completely original, new way of making a hinged bicycle frame which combines: light weight (due to a precise allocation of material), strength (through a pre-tensioned space-frame), high compactness when folded down (by means of members that adapt to one another) and automatic opening-closing.
In order to obtain significant improvement, a new 'bicycle-design method' had to be put in place, due to the often conflicting requirements of production, ergonomics, power-transfer, solidity, street regulations and aspects like tyres, brakes, suspension.
A better foldable bike
Imagine an extremely lightweight bicycle that folds and unfolds and has optional electrical assistance. Researchers have designed this personal vehicle as a pleasurable individual urban mobility tool, to be used in conjunction with all other types of transportation.
Thanks to the EU-funded http://www.bike-intermodal.eu (BIKE INTERMODAL) project, the better foldable bicycle is here. Many foldable models have already been produced, but within the established standards of the bicycle industry. These standards prevented the foldable bicycle from coming of age. With a nod to global warming, small two-wheeled vehicles, bicycles, electric bicycles, scooters and the like are the solution for individual urban transport.
The new design is modern and vertically integrated with an automotive-type supply chain. It is economically efficient and scalable, while being environmentally certified, technologically reliable and low maintenance.
Researchers overcame the volume and weight problems that affect all other folding bicycles currently on the market. The resulting folded bike package is just slightly bigger than a briefcase (40x50x15 cm). Folded, it occupies just 30 litres as compared with 90 litres, the most compact model on offer in the global market. Unfolded it is a normal bicycle height, fitting cyclists ranging from 155 to 192 cm in height. The personal vehicle can be equipped with a powerful, miniaturised motor, a welcome option for many urban users.
The design allows easy updates of individual parts to the main system. The integrated design, hierarchical assembly and lean manufacturing reduced the materials and parts list, and halved the material per product unit. The number of parts needed to construct this personal vehicle is one fifth of the number needed to construct a traditional foldable bicycle.
BIKE INTERMODAL's technologic advancements have provided a newer, better and higher-performing product for, among others, urban commuters and fleet services (car rentals, cruise ships, hotels) and for emergency mobility. The bicycle created by this project appeals to royals and workmen, young and old alike. The personal vehicle will now be mass produced and marketed broadly.