European sustainable mobility plans include incentives for people to travel by bike. These include more bike lanes alongside sharing/ownership/rental schemes. The Covid-19 pandemic, with efforts to reduce public transport numbers, is accelerating this trend. The EU-supported BIKEINSIDE project has created an automated ‘vending machine’ which can store all bike types, making them accessible when needed. The bikes can be privately owned or rented from public administrations or BIKEINSIDE itself. After a competitive selection process, overseen by an international panel of independent experts, the BIKEINSIDE project was awarded the Seal of Excellence by the EU.
An integrated solution for sustainable mobility
Currently, most public parking solutions for bikes, whether privately owned or from sharing schemes, are inadequate. They can take up a lot of public space and often don’t protect the bikes from the elements or from theft. The ICVS estimates about 1.3 million bicycle thefts per year across the 17 countries it studied. Additionally, for public administrations, maintenance costs for storage can be high and updates to improve services difficult to implement. “I was actually one of the first customers in Turin to make use of bike sharing systems and saw first-hand how they could be improved,” says Michele Di Chio, project coordinator. The hub of the BIKEINSIDE system is an enclosed rack system (the ‘box’) on which people place their bikes. To maximise space, sensors automatically rearrange the racks parking the bikes across several levels. This has been shown to reduce land use by up to 80 % compared to conventional solutions. To ensure flexibility, the rack spaces are modular, so can be assembled, or disassembled, in response to need. People register and access the BIKEINSIDE service through an app. A personalised QRCode is then used to activate the automatic withdrawal system 24/7. This allows users to pick up their own parked bike, rent the first available rack for parking or rent a bike from the box, using a credit card for payment. Geolocation (Google Maps and Street View) on the app tells users where the nearest BIKEINSIDE box is and customer support is available in four languages (English, French, Italian and Spanish). To maximise revenue, the box walls can be sold as advertising space. To date the project team have conducted 3D simulations of the complete system and carried out a workshop test on the rack system. “The system tested in the workshop was demonstrated to be reliable. For example, tests showed that bikes could be parked or retrieved in as little as 12 seconds, a reduction of 60 % compared to existing automated systems,” explains Di Chio.
Racing up the gears
It has been calculated that biking typically generates 21g of CO2 per passenger/km, more than ten times less than an average car. As well as helping to reduce CO2 emissions, increased bike mobility through solutions such as BIKEINSIDE, will also reduce noise, improve air quality, while creating safer and healthier cities. “We want BIKEINSIDE to make a tangible contribution to the EU's sustainable mobility policies. Thanks to our system, people will be able to think of bicycles as being as convenient as cars, without the expense and environmental damage,” he adds. To bring the system towards commercialisation, the team’s R&D efforts are advancing the infrastructure and ICT, as well as marketing the service in the Piedmont and Lombardy regions of Italy where they will be implemented first.
BIKEINSIDE, Covid-19, bike, sustainable mobility, transport, parking, rack, air quality, theft, bicycle, environment