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Climate CoLab Winners’ Spotlight: FlyCycle: An urban bike rack design

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The 2016 “Designing High Density Urban Bike Parking” contest winners Julia Hansen and Jeff Olinger of Cambridge, MA, are reinventing the way people store bikes in urban environments, with a bike rack design that strikes a balance between visual appeal, space conservation, and function. The concept has really taken off the ground since their participation in the Climate CoLab contest last year, including undergoing the prototyping process, and being featured at GreenBuild 2016 in Los Angeles, and at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador.

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The FlyCycle bike rack showing the single tube design and the elevated bike.  

One impetus for the bike rack design arose from Julia’s studies in city planning and value-centered design. Of this, she said, “I’m an urbanist at heart. I think about cities in terms of what they do for people: what it’s like to move around in them, to do business in them, to be healthy and safe, to have fun and a voice in them. I look for ways cities can be more accessible, efficient, and conducive to wellbeing.” This inner drive and reflective way of thinking drew her attention to bike racks. Although there exist various types, conventional bike racks all have some common problems, from accessibility issues to aesthetics.

Meanwhile, Jeff Olinger, a professional architect, brought significant design skills to the table. Combining their skills together, Julia and Jeff developed and tested various design concepts together with local craftsmen from Cambridge, Massachusetts. In order to find the best design concept they analyzed them on different dimensions, such as cost of materials used, or ease of access for bikers.

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Julia Hansen and Jeff Olinger being awarded at the MIT Climate CoLab’s Crowds & Climate Conference in Boston, September 2016. 

Their efforts finally reaped rewards when the “Flycycle” –  a bike rack made of a single tube that is welded to itself on one end and secured at another on a horizontal or vertical surface won MIT Climate CoLab’s Urban Bike Parking contest. The tube lends the rack an attractive aesthetic, which blends in with urban environments. Perhaps more importantly, it solves a common issue among bike racks: that of handlebars knocking together. By elevating one of two bikes parked against the same standalone frame, the design saves over 20% more space when compared to conventional racks. Another unique feature of the “FlyCycle” is the possibility to install the rack on a vertical surface, conserving even more limited space. While striving to include innovative features such as these, Jeff & Julia still sought to keep production costs low, with an estimated price of around $ 90 USD for the horizontal and $ 170 USD for the vertical Flycycle. 

Following winning the Popular Choice (determined by public voting) and Judges’ Choice Awards for the Kendall Square Designing High Density Urban Bike Parking competition, the Flycycle team later incorporated as a business, to develop, manufacture, and sell better bike racks in Cambridge and beyond. After connecting with manufacturers, they were able to develop a production-ready model of their design for installation.

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Installation of several FlyCycle bike racks in a row.

Shortly after winning the Climate CoLab competition, the Flycycle received a national award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for the 2016 Emerging Professionals Showcase. In the fall of 2016, Flycycle embarked on its first “world tour” when it was further selected for the AIA’s sustainable design exhibits at Greenbuild 2016 in Los Angeles and the “Habitat III” Conference in Quito, Ecuador– a United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. These opportunities introduced the Flycycle design to a wider suite of builders, designers, city planners, and climate activists, facilitating further technical and market insights from manufacturing experts, and connecting the team to a global network of citizens, municipal departments, and academics committed to advancing low-emission transportation infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the team has also been busy installing pilots of the Flycycle design around Kendall Square, including in Technology Square and Galaxy Park, adding both visual and functional appeal to public spaces. The team credits their participation in the Climate CoLab competition with helping them get the vision off the ground, and opening doors to additional collaborators and implementers, noting, “from our experience, the Climate CoLab is truly making innovation happen in the field of climate action.”

Learn more at http://www.flycycle.co/.