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THE INTERMODAL BIKE - Multi-modal integration of cycling mobility through product and process innovations in bicycle design

Final Report Summary - BIKE INTERMODAL (THE INTERMODAL BIKE - Multi-modal integration of cycling mobility through product and process innovations in bicycle design.)

Executive Summary:
Object of this work is to provide -by means of product and process innovations- an advanced compactable bicycle, making it practical to carry along a bicycle aboard public transportation, easily, safely and for a large number of passengers. The ultimate goal is a synergic, intermodal integration of public transport and cycling, expanding the share of both modalities in the urban mobility.
Bicycling is very efficient in the short range, but not so on longer distances. Re-introducing it into daily travel to handle the trip’s end portions, could improve the effectiveness of other modalities through an additive effect, re-balancing in a cost-effective way the modal mix in favor of micro-mobility and public transport.
The state of the art doesn’t allow a collective, pervasive use of the folding bikes in “intermodal duty”, because of excessive weight and volume when collapsed -often exceeding the baggage limits of city bus and metros- discouraging their use out of practicality and safety on board. The proposed research aims at providing a solution, developing a fully engineered, production-ready, new bike typology, based on an innovative concept for a bike frame.
The advantage over the state of the art is an unprecedented compactness (factor 5 over common folders) and low weight (factor 2) obtained combining a collapsible, pre-tensioned space-frame with a modern industrial process derived from the automotive sector.
The process innovation will also allow low cost, quality control, opening-closing automation, electric power assistance and last,
but not least in a design-conscious world, aestethic value. The work program will develop a new supply-chain, assembling several application-specific know-how modules of mature and well known technologies, all commonly and economically available.
Project Context and Objectives:
1. Summary description of project context and main objectives
Project context
A bicycle is a “minimal vehicle”, able to handle efficiently small-scale individual movements (0,5 to 3 km trips) typical of capillary urban mobility. However, it loses its appeal on longer commute distances. Hence a symbiosis of the bicycle with other forms of transport, more efficient at the medium or long distances, could enhance each mode’s strong points.
The synergy between fine-grain local mobility and long-haul capacity could lower the access threshold to both the cycling mode and the public-transport mode. Such a synergy would make cycling easily and immediately intermodal, with no need for special normative or infrastructural provisions. Bicycle intermodality would therefore constitute a “third pillar” of incentivation of cycling in urban mobility. EU has often stated this as a priority in its publications on city mobility, along with the other two more established instruments, namely “policy” (modal incentives and prohibitions) and “infrastructure” (parkings, bike lanes).
However, the state of the art in foldable bicycles does not allow the collective, pervasive use in intermodal transport required to achieve this aim. This is due to the current foldable bicycles’ excessive weight and volume when collapsed -often exceeding the baggage limits of city bus and metros, where they are liable to compromising practicality and safety on board.
We aimed at overcoming the obstacles to the realization of a “superlightweight supercompactable” intermodal bicycle; obstacles that, in our Consortium’s opinion, pertain rather to the marketing, supply chain and financial characteristics of the bicycle industry than to intrinsic technical difficulties.
Our research started off from a study supporting, in principle and at a preliminary design
stage, the overall feasibility of a bicycle conceived to satisfy the requirements of “intermodal duty” as
discussed above. Building on that study and drawing on the experience of the consortium
partners, we have reached the stage of a production-ready, fully engineered prototype with working drawings, 3D-modelling and industrial cost plans.

Project’s aims
• Contribute to synergic, intermodal integration of public transport and cycling, expanding the share of both modalities in the urban mobility.
• Broadly to re-introduce bicycling into daily travel to handle the trip’s end portions, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of other modalities through an additive effect.
• To re-balance in a cost-effective way the modal mix in favour of micro-mobility and public transport.

Project’s main objectives
• To provide an advanced super-compactable, super-lightweight folding bicycle, practical to carry aboard public transportation, easily, safely and for a large number of passengers.
• To provide -by means of product and process innovations- a fully engineered, production-ready, new bike typology, based on an innovative concept for a bike frame already tested on mock-ups and working models, whilst optimizing opening-closing automation, electric power assistance and last, but not least in a design-conscious world, aestethic value.
• To develop in particular:
o A scheme able to accommodate a possibly wide percentage of the population’s body sizes, whilst ensuring an ergonomic riding position, efficient power transfer and good equilibrium bio-feedback;
o Application-specific technologies for
• Traction;
• Braking;
• Optional electric power-assist module;
• Overall configuration of the structural members and their connections able to ensure both structural efficiency and smooth operation of the collapsing frame.
• To achieve decisive advantage over the current state-of-the-art in foldable bicycles by realizing unprecedented compactness (factor 6 over common folding bicycles currently available) and low weight (factor 3 over common folding bicycles currently available).
• To combine a collapsible, pre-tensioned space-frame with a modern industrial process, thereby fostering low-cost production and retail and efficient quality control.
• To develop a new supply-chain, assembling several application-specific know-how modules of mature and well-known technologies, all commonly and economically available.
• To develop an industrial production plan for the production of a complete, sellable product, including specs for all the materials involved and a study of the aestethic positioning of the bike.

Project Results:
The project moved from a "seed intuition" about a seemingly promising expanding-collapsing scheme for a bicycle. The FP7 project made it possible to develop a clear layout of the vehicle, something akin to what in the automotive industry is defined “platform”.
It consists of a well-ordered system of relations among parts, subparts, functional groups, on the background of an overall ergonomic frame of reference. It integrates the various component technologies and the general system into a hyerarchical, meta-projectual system of control:

-- first the structural relations;
-- then the kinematic actuators, acting on them;
-- then the component technologies, as traction, brakes and so forth;
-- then the construction logic of groups and subgroups to control the assembly.

This framework is the most important result of the project, as it allowed to establish a productive method for a bicycle based on modern industrial criteria, abandoning the classic bicycle industry.

In thjs context, switching from bicycle supply-chain to the automotive one, has made evident that the the core objectives of Bike Intermodal towards sustainable mobility- reduce weight and volume - would also comply with the objectives of the Industrial Greening according to the principles of Product Lifeycle Management” (PLM):
• Integrated design
• Modularity
• Reduction of Material list and Part list for “Waste minimization” and end-of-life factory recycle.
• Halving of the material per-product unit
• Short value-chain and logistics
• Better assembly of small parts
• Small package warehousing and shipping
• Higher Value/Volume shipping ratio
• Modern logistics in distribution

The project aims therefore to substitute a quota of ordinary bicycles, currently produced with the traditional, open-cycle supply chain, possibly helping to start a change in the way all bicycle are designed, produced and eventually recycled.
Potential Impact:
3. Potential impact, main dissemination activities and exploitation of results
Potential impact
In the realm of foldable bicycles, there is a clear discrepancy between offer and demand, and between 19th-century technologies and the possibilities of modern production technologies. Since almost half a century we have witnessed periodic attempts at breaching solutions for foldable bicycles to “bridge the gap” in intermodal transport – virtually all of which are short-lived. This notwithstanding, there has been a surge in the development and production of new models (more than hundred companies worldwide now produce foldable bicycles). Lately, the foldable bicycle has even lost its stigma of awkwardness becoming “fashionable”. There is apparently a demand for foldable bicycles is being broadly perceived, and has already found its expression on the marketplace. However, the proposed solutions are not in line with expectations, as they are either too unwieldy, too heavy or too complex to fold and unfold. Virtually all foldable bicycles worldwide – with maybe one or two exceptions – follow the same pattern, because the bicycle industry’s established standards prevent the foldable bicycle to come of age. Hence there is room for a paradigm shift, especially now that small two-wheeled vehicles – bicycles, electric bicycles, scooters etc. - appear more and more as the solution of choice for individual urban transport, as the “missing link” in intermodality.
The bicycle that has been created in the course of this project – the “Personal Vehicle” – is now fit to become an instrument for new, fluid and pleasurable individual urban mobility, in intermodal conjunction with all other types of transportation. Our Consortium has overcome the volume and weight problems that affect all other folding bicycles currently on the market. Once mass-produced and marketed broadly, the “Personal Vehicle” will substantially improve the urban cycling experience of its users, bringing intermodal transport well within reach of the general public at large. There are no limitations of age or social condition: a bicycle is “cool” for royals and workmen, young and old alike. The potential impact – socially, economically, environmentally, urbanistically - of the deliverable of this project is therefore huge.
Key to improving the folding bike so radically, and to its transformation into a true Personal Vehicle portable and usable to all, was our departure from the existing production techniques of the traditional bicycle industry. Indeed, production of the “Personal Vehicle” is underpinned by a modern, vertically integrated, automotive-type supply-chain, economically efficient, scalable, environmentally certified, low-maintenance and technologically reliable.
Our departure from traditional bicycle production techniques has allowed uncompromised development of this innovative model of bicycle, ultra-lightweight, super-compactable and with optional electrical assistance. The structure unfolds and folds automatically, like a convertible car top or airplane landing gear, expanding into a rigid space-frame.
The “Minimal Vehicle” offers all functionalities of a normal bicycle (with optional electric power assist) but with the added comfort of use, transport, storage and retail of a flat (15 cm.) package just slightly bigger thatn an attché case (40x50x15 cm). Folded, the “Minimal Vehicle” presents a 30-litre compacted volume, while unfolded it deploys normal bicycle ergonomics, fitting cyclists with heights ranging from 155 to 192 cm In comparison, the most compact model on the world market in this sector) folds in 90 litres. Most other brands of foldable bicycles fold in 150-210 litres. The weight of the “Personal Vehicle” is around HALF the average weight of current, non-power-assisted folding bicycles Optionally, the “Personal Vehicle” can be equipped with a powerful, miniaturized power-assist module, custom-made for this product by Swiss Maxon Motor (http://www.maxonmotor.com). The resulting portability and ease and simplicity of operation, storage and handling lowers significantly the ownership burden of a bicycle for the urban dweller.
Departure from the traditional bicycle production techniques has not only led to reductions in weight and volume of the finished product, but also to significant improvements to the industrial production process itself. Not one part of this bicycle originates in the traditional bicycle industry. The number of parts is one fifth of the number needed to construct traditional foldable bicycles. The platform is extensible – the foldable frame is designed to allow continuous and easy updates, also of individual parts of the system. From a point of view of production: the product’s reduced dimensions permit a variety of distributive modalities hitherto unknown for bicycles: internet, car rental companies, corporate fleet,as well as new forms of rental, use in holiday resorts, hotels and companies. It is the first example of an “instant bicycle”, sold in a nice package. Innovative production techniques, marketing, the availability of a purpose-built power-assist unit fully integrated in the design of the product. Our production techniques meet the objectives of Industrial Greening (integrated design; hierarchical assembly; lean manufacturing) in a number of relevant ways:
• Reduction of Material list and Part list for "Waste minimization" and end of useful life for factory recycle;
• Halving of the material per product unit;
• Short value-chain and logistics;
• Better assembly of small parts;
• Small package warehousing and shipping;
• Higher Value-to-Volume shipping ratio;
• Modern logistics in distribution;
• First Bicycle using “Product Lifeycle Management" (PLM).
Technologic advancements provide newer, better, higher performing products that can do as much and sometimes more than persuasion, obligation or deterrence to change behaviours and life-styles. We applied this philosophy to the folding bicycle. This has enabled us to propose intermodal cycling as a synergic "third pillar" for the promotion of bicycle use, the other two pillars being Policy-making and Infrastuctural development.
The “Minimal Vehicle” targets several market segments:
• Urban commuters;
• Car range extender (OEM/Aftermarket);
• Fleet sales: Car Rentals, Cruise ships, Hotels;
• Bike Rental services;
• Corporate Mobility Managers;
• Nautical accessories;
• General Aviation
• RV accessory (OEM/Aftermarket);
• Emergency Mobility Module (Civil Protection, Military etc.).

List of Websites:
www.bike-intermodal.eu