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  • Daniel Olvera

Inclusive furniture design for cycling infrastructure

Actualizado: 4 jul 2020

I’d like to talk about inclusive urban furniture design for cycling infrastructure, and the way in which we can use design to encourage bicycle use in cities by basing our thinking on the needs and problems facing cyclists and their environment.

Twelve years ago, we started Neko as an Industrial Design and Architecture studio. We were four partners from different backgrounds; Alice, Karime, Hiroshi and myself, with important cultural differences but the same dreams and values; we wanted to create an environmentally and socially responsible company where it would be a pleasure to work.

The company has changed over the years but design is still at the heart of everything we do. More recently we have specialized in urban furniture design for cycling infrastructure, as we believe it is vital to promote the bicycle as a means of transport in cities.

Over time we have included and developed very effective work methodologies, based on creating user-centred solutions; the most important part is defining an objective clearly and without limitations. For example, “Thinking about the basic concept we understand that it isn’t just a ‘Bike park’, rather an ‘easy to use, comfortable and secure place to leave your bike’”. We design thinking about the user and their surroundings, without forgetting the environmental factor.

Four years ago, we developed a bike rack for Mexico City’s Ministry of the Environment, to be used in a large Bike Park with considerable space restrictions. One of the best ways to save space and adapt to the building was to hang bikes vertically, thus reducing the space used by up to 45%. The problem is that hanging bikes requires considerable effort and skill by the user, due to the differences in physical capabilities and types of bike.

This is an example of another model the government had previously considered, but it reduced space by only 25% and was not very easy to use.

We decided to design a vertical rack, but we centred the design on the user and ease of use. During the development phase, we interviewed a lot of cyclists, investigated materials, built several prototypes and models to observe operation, and carried out many, many tests.

Finally, we developed a design with pneumatic assistance to lift the bicycle to a vertical position; it can be used with virtually all types of bike, including those with accessories, without damaging them, and it can be used by people of all ages and physical capabilities. This model is currently installed in two Massive Bike Parks in Mexico City, each with space for 400 bicycles and serving over 4000 people per month. The building offers a secure space and any user can leave their bike easily – this is a great example of how comprehensive design can encourage people to cycle.