When bikes revolutionise mobility, you need cycle-friendly technology and town planning

Product & Tech

When bikes revolutionise mobility, you need cycle-friendly technology and town planning
November 2017

The extraordinary growth of the bicycle market worldwide had a twofold effect: it has rekindled interest in an affordable, environmentally-friendly and healthy means of transport, and at the same time it has encouraged many bike and accessory manufacturers to develop technologies that could make cycling increasingly accessible and enjoyable. Extremely lightweight frames, smartphone applications that rate speed, kilometres and calories burned, or shock-absorbing gel and foam padded saddles that make long trips comfortable; these are just some of the latest technologies developed to improve wellness on two wheels. But innovative ideas and projects are also sprouting from infrastructures and services for cyclists in many parts of the world.

In Tokyo, for example, they found an innovative solution to address the parking issue; for cyclists, it is getting increasingly hard to find a safe place where they can leave their bike and be sure they will find it when they come back. 

The Japanese have designed and built a vertical 11-metre underground parking system that can store up to 200 bicycles. The only thing you can see above the ground is a booth inside which bikes are placed before a robot arm gets them and drags them underground, where they are arranged in dedicated spaces.

Daily commuters can get a subscription card at an affordable price (just over € 10 per month), and use the underground spaces of one of the 43 vertical facilities placed in 16 locations across the capital. Bikes are stored and retrieved in mo more than 15 seconds, making this parking system not only safe, but also extremely convenient.


The needs of cyclists have always been a priority in the Netherlands; this is why the Dutch used the 3D printing technology to create the first bridge for cyclists and pedestrians only. In only three months, they created an 8-metre-long bridge over a channel in the city of Gemer, made up by 800 layers of 3D-printed concrete. It is the first urban traffic infrastructure built using such an innovative technology, but the benefits to the community have already been felt: with 3D printed concrete blocks, the process gets much faster, as they do not require additional structures to support the construction; it is more environmentally friendly, since there is no waste of material; it is more customised, because you can create endless shapes.

Technology applied to services has also made it much easier to choose a bike even without owning one. Used in cities around the world for a long time now, bike sharing was made even more practical and easily accessible through a service invented by a Chinese company, which is very close to what Uber is for taxis. A Beijing company has locked thousands of yellow bikes around Chinese cities and developed an App that allows you to unlock them and use them for just a few cents. Mainly chosen by university students, this service is extremely easy to use: you just need to scan the bike’s barcode with your smartphone to get a bike.

The system still needs to be improved, but it’s currently catching on internationally, bringing many people in highly polluted cities back in the saddle again. There are already more than 70,000 yellow bikes in 20 cities around China, which went from some hundred thousand rides to nearly 300 million in only one year.

In recent months, stationless bikesharing has also taken hold worldwide, from China and the United States, through to the United Kingdom and Italy as well. From August 2017 these shared bikes can also be found in Milan and Florence, featuring extremely innovative design, equipped with GPS and a smart lock. It’s a relief for the body and for environmental well-being.

Technological innovation is essential for improving an activity that already has many positive aspects: but what do you think could be the next revolutionary idea for bike riders?

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