Friday, March 31, 2017

Engineering A New Bike: Final Reflections


Our group was The Fran-tastic Five. We designed a system to improve bike path safety and bike path visibility for pedestrians. The problem we chose to solve was conceived from our time spent in Copenhagen and Malmö. While in both cities, we noticed that walking in the bike paths (which was necessary at times where there were too many pedestrians for the sidewalk) could be dangerous if you did not see bikers coming. This problem could be solved with our product, which consists of a series of sensors 10 meters apart along the bike paths. When a biker passes one sensor, the following sensor will make a ping and flash a small LED to alert the pedestrians near it that a biker is coming. The sensors will also provide a way to mark the edges of bike paths, as it can be difficult for non-natives of the city to determine where the paths begin and end. As 20% of pedestrian fatalities in cities in the EU were caused by biker on pedestrian accidents, our product would have a substantial impact on European commuters. This could also promote bike path development in American cities, as cities would need to worry less about the safety of its commuters.


We worked truly collaboratively and I was impressed on what we accomplished in such a short time. Our groups thesis was: “The lack of commuter cyclist in U.S. cities is driven by the fear of physical safety.” From this thesis we researched crash statistics and found that most accidents took place at intersections. We inferred that this was occurring because either cyclists were not following road signals or that their intentions were not clear to other road vehicles. We decided to address the later, and conceptualized using lights to indicate the cyclist's intentions. We debated how we wanted to incorporate the lights; we discussed a jacket, a mounting system, a helmet, and a backpack. We discussed the pro’s and con’s of each and decided that a backpack would be the best starting point. We choose a backpack because it would elevate the lights height, provide storage, and because it could be transferred easily between bicycles. We continued research and came across a possible competitor’s Kickstarter. Their proposed backpack featured an LED Matrix which focused more on personalization than safety. We felt that embedding the LED lights into the front and rear of the bag would differentiate ourselves as a safety product. The backpack’s LEDs would span the bag's whole length on both the front straps and the back of the bag. This would further increase the rider’s visibility over competing products.

As we learned from our presentation, we did not discover all the competing products failing to address concerns with similar form and function. We continued to idealize our product, deciding to offer product levels to address cost and demand of certain features. These features included a phone charger and a cooling air system. We also decided to incorporate induction charging for the bags battery. We decided to embed the charger into the base of the bag and into the backpacks handle so it could be charged while hung from a hook. The indicators would be controlled by two buttons that would be mounted by using magnetic clasp. We brainstormed embedding an accelerometer into the buttons that would detect when the bicycle slowed and automatically indicate braking. We didn’t finalize the technology we wanted to use to wirelessly communicate data with the bag.


BikeSmart Cities is a firm that cities and towns can hire when they want to become more bike-friendly. Our purpose is to get more cities in the United States to become bike friendly because biking is green, efficient, and convenient. We look a city's roads, intersections, placement of crosswalks, parking infrastructure, and other key parts of the city. Based on our observations of infrastructure, we advise the city or town on how to proceed in order to make our clients city more bike friendly. We may recommend things such as adding bike lanes to main roads, building more parking structures, or making roads one-way to allow for more foot and bicycle traffic.

1 comment: