Solving a two-wheeled problem

For those of who read the Times, you will know that they have a bit of a bike obsession. They have recently initiated a safer cycling campaign, following the death of a man whose humble bike met the mean pathway of a coach – the 10th British cycling fatality this year. The campaign has since had 17,000 signatures, including Lord Sugar, Florence Welch and Mark Cavendish (the bicyling supremo himself). My overall point is that cycling is big news, and riders can wear their fluorescent arm bands, skimpy cycling shorts and helmets with pride. However, like an oily loose chain or punctured tyre, an excess of bikes does create problems and orchestrating a “safer cycling” network is not, to reiterate the words of a famous meerkat, “simples”. In other words, how can a city accommodate bikes?

Take Copenhagen, where I recently visited on holiday. In Copenhagen, cyclists are king – they rule the roads on their own lanes, conqueror cars with their envious benefits of being able to go anywhere in the city, and are beyond the constraints of either helmets or bike-locks as they take the city en masse. There are so many bicycles in Copenhagen that if you attempted to steal one, you would face a disconcerting amount of choice, in addition to a Danish army of angry two-wheeled onlookers. However, even in Copenhagen the question of providing sufficient bike storage arises. As cities get increasingly urbanised and densely populated, bikers face the challenge of finding enough bike racks/fences/chaining facilities/you name it to lock their bike away. To solve this problem, MANIFESTO architecture, a New York based, award-winning architectural design firm, have come up with a ground-breaking, space-saving, uplifting (quite literally) proposition. They have designed the bike hanger – to give you an immediate sense of how good an idea this is, the bike hanger is nominated for the Design Museum’s Designs of the year 2012.

The bike hanger is a bike storage facility designed specifically for dense urban areas, with MANIFESTO’s particular clients being the City of Seoul, Korea and London. The system ingeniously involves bikes being stored vertically, and thereby taking up a minimal amount of space – 15 bikes high, supported like some avant-garde sculpture spiderman-ing up a disused wall. The idea behind it being that it can be installed in narrow pockets of underutilised urban spaces to free up as much space as possible for pedestrians, and presumably more bikers. The bike hanger is also environmentally smart – it both complements the industrial facade of its surroundings (I love its Foster-inspired/old warehouse aesthetic), and can be operated without any power, requiring only a simple pedaling motion from the user (a nice touch). It also uses recycled materials in its construction, from reused water bottles for the canopy to recycled carbon framing. I cannot wait to see it in London in February 2012, I might even bike there…

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