Speed Bike improves the city environment
What can you do when air pollution and noise are becoming a major problem for the city area? One solution is to provide the citizens with Speed Bikes - electromuscular vehicles, which move thanks to human muscle power. The idea was developed in the City of Modena in Italy, and today it is halfway through a European Union-funded project to create efficient and less polluting energy systems. The Speed Bike project started in January 1998. If everything goes according to plan, the City of Modena will develop a promotional campaign to encourage more people to use electromuscular vehicles in order to reduce the level of pollution in the centres of small and middle sized towns and cities. This campaign will target a wide audience outside Italy. The idea of a Speed Bike originated partly from the people of the City of Modena, but also from the professional high school Ipsia Ferrari, which specializes in the design and realization of electromuscular vehicles. The City of Modena was, and still is, developing a strategy to reorganize urban mobility and traffic so as to ensure the right to mobility for all citizens. It also aims to improve safety and reduce the level of pollution. As a result, some areas of the city have been closed to combustion-engine vehicles, with the exception of scooters. This might sound a good idea. However, the number of scooters has multiplied during the last few years and they have also proved to be very harmful in terms of both noise and air pollution as well as being a danger to road safety. The need to control polluting and dangerous traffic was still there. With help from Progetta Europa, an office dealing with European affairs and international relations, the Speed Bike project started to take form. The idea of proposing the Speed Bike project to the European Commission (EC) derived from discussions between Progetta Europa and the Department for Traffic, Roads and Transport on the possibility of finding financial resources in addition to those of the local authority which were already available for the project. The project proposal was submitted in response to an invitation to tender for the SAVE II programme managed by the EC Directorate-General XVII. This programme aims to test and disseminate all over Europe more efficient and less polluting energy systems. The success behind the Speed Bike projects proved to be the collaboration between the Department for Traffic, Roads and Transport and Progetto Europa. While the department contributed specific "know-how" in relation to the project, Progetto Europa collected the necessary documents concerning the SAVE II programme. Before submitting the proposal, Progetto Europa consulted the Italian Agency for Energy and Environment (ENEA) as well as DG XVII for advice on the admissibility of the project. So, exactly what is a Speed Bike and how does it work? All the vehicles comprise a part, which is traditionally mechanical, such as wheels, frame, pedals and handlebars. The other part is electrical, connected to the components, which transmit the movement. The electric engine, which has a power of around 250-Watt, starts automatically and progressively as soon as the vehicle starts moving and reaches a minimum speed of between 7 and 8km/h. Batteries play a key role, since they ensure the store of the necessary electrical energy. Every vehicle carries a set of batteries, designed to ensure performance and freedom of movement. The performance monitored in the first months of the project showed the range was between 10 and 30 km. It is important to know that, according to Italian law, electromuscular vehicles are not allowed to go any faster than 25km/h. Once the type of vehicles was selected, the City of Modena put out a call for possible users. 202 people replied - the youngest being 18 years old while the oldest was 80. Their selection took place in September 1998. The City of Modena now has seven months to go before the evaluation of the Speed Bike project starts. However, progress has been encouraging and shows that the idea of replacing scooters and other vehicles with electromuscular vehicles in the city centre is feasible and practical.