Harvard Shares 70 Bike Innovations to Encourage Riders

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Although the number of runners competing in races has dropped in the last few years, the number of bikers has been increasing over the years; according to Statista, the number of cyclists in the United States increased from 51 million to 67 million between 2012 and 2014, and bike sales have been steadily increasing since the 1990s.

Whether this incline is a result of people wanting to be more fit, protect the environment, or simply enjoy riding a bike, it’s a good trend for our society that we don’t want to end. As a result, Harvard scientists created a list of inventive ideas in order to continue encouraging bikers.

“This suggests that the adoption of proven innovations and the encouragement of new innovations could help ensure that cycling and its benefits continue to increase,” reads the document Promoting Bicycling Through Creative Design: Innovations for Bicycles and Cycling Facilities. “The purpose of this document is to highlight some of these innovations so as to increase awareness of progress and encourage new improvements.”

Compiled by Anne Lusk, Ph.D., Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, the list provides nine innovations for the bike, 48 for the bike environment, seven for bicycle parking and six to help climate change. While some are hypothetical and others are already being tested in various countries, all creations would benefit any type of biker and its community.


“Innovations continue to emerge in bicycle design and in the design and management of cycling facilities. Bicycling innovations and their adoption could be accelerated by increasing the level of resources available for evaluation of new designs,” the document states. “By focusing on more active, healthful transportation, including bicycling, federal resources for evaluation could become better aligned with national goals for improving public health and addressing climate change.”

Below are some of highlighted innovations from each section – look out, they may soon be found in a community near you! (Find the full list here)

Bike Inventions

  1. Copenhagen Wheel

The Copenhagen Wheel has a rechargeable battery within the hub and a motor that is then operated by the battery. The wheel replaces the back wheel on a bike and is controlled by the bicyclist’s smart phone. As the bicyclist pedals and brakes, energy is saved that can be used if climbing a hill or carrying heavier loads. The wheel is also smart and patterns your pedaling revolutions, learning how you pedal to give

you the most seamless boost when needed.

  1. Collision-warning sensor for bicycles

New cars have detectors that signal, sometimes with a sound or with a light blinking near a rear view mirror, when a bicyclist is close but at the University of Minnesota researchers have been testing a laser sensor on the bike to detect the likelihood of a collisions including rear end, right turn, or side. The bicycle attachment doesn’t require that the car be equally equipped to avoid crashes.

  1. “Self-filling” bicycle bottle that generates water from moist air

In locations where humidity is high, air temperature is high, pollution is low, and water is scarce, the “self-filling” bicycle bottle attached to the bike pulls moisture out of the air, resulting in drinkable water as the bicyclist rides. In about one of hour of riding, the invention produces 0.5 liters (2 cups) of water.

Bicycle Environment

  1. Antifreeze asphalt/concrete on a bicycle bridge or cycle track to melt snow

Antifreeze that is incorporated into asphalt concrete offers the capabilities of melting snow more quickly and not allowing the snow to adhere as strongly to the road surface. This antifreeze asphalt, a quick setting cement, was used on a bicycle bridge in the Netherlands. Application of the antifreeze asphalt means there is no icing if the temperatures go down to -5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit). The study on the bicycle bridge in the Netherlands suggested that over a 20-year period maintenance would be lower by 11 percent.

  1. Solar-panel cycle track to generate power

Solar panels have been embedded into a cycle path in the Netherlands for a length of 230 feet. Though viewed pessimistically because the panels on the flat surface were not pitched toward the sun and shadows from bicyclists and trees would lessen the energy generated, the solar panel cycle track has generated power. Time will tell if maintenance issues are complex and costly.

  1. Signals activated in Copenhagen to speed buses and bicyclists through intersections

Drivers and bicyclists would have their smart phones sensed (anonymously) and this information would inform intelligent traffic signals of traffic conditions. The result would be lights turned green and kept green longer to move buses and bicyclists along faster.

Bicycle Parking

  1. Outfitted green bicycle parking modules installed as part of all city parking garages (Does not exist yet)

Developers of parking garages have produced certification standards for green parking garages. These include basic provisions for bicycle parking but not all developers will include state-of-the art bicycle parking. Therefore, bicycle parking modules, rather like pre-constructed mobile homes or deluxe port-o-potties used at wedding, could be created and inserted on the ground floor of all parking garages. Basic modules could include simple bicycle parking with only racks, lights, and windows for visibility. Additional bike parking modules could include showers and changing rooms.

  1. Bicycle parking in office complexes (Does not yet fully exist)

Guidelines for parking bicycles in multi-story residential buildings, office complexes, stores, and schools exist but the primary focus is on a bike rack outsideor inside. Office buildings could instead offer freight elevators and escalators that bicyclists could use to get their bicycles to their desks. At each desk, especially in an office of office cubicles and carrels, a slot could be provided that is for the worker’s bike to be parked. They could then have access to their papers, etc. stored on their bike, rather like having a brief case that is carried to the desk.

  1. Bike parking in the school and home that is as bike centric as car parking (Does not exist)

Elementary schools, high schools, and colleges provide ample car parking spaces for teachers and staff but the bike parking is often a few outdoor racks. The bike parking should be extremely superior to car parking to motivate commuters to arrive by bike. The bike parking could be inside with lockers beside each bike. This still would be less square footage than is provided to vehicle owners who also have to have space provided for pulling in and out of a parking space and driving within the parking lot. Bike parking in the home could also be better than the interior car parking space. For every amenity (automatic door opener, inside, overhead lighting, door to the kitchen, etc.) for the car, the amenity provided to park a bike should be better.

Climate Change

  1. Involve fire, police, and public works departments in design charrettes for the bike (Does not exist yet)

Often after plans have been drawn the fire department is shown the plans and asked to respond. They may then say that, with cycle tracks, the street is too narrow for passage by fire trucks, ambulances, etc. With Climate Change involving weather related disasters and the fire and police departments in charge of emergencies, perhaps they could be asked to design safe bicycle infrastructure instead of just individuals with the transportation department.

  1. Signed emergency evacuation routes by bicycle (Does not exist yet)

Cities established evacuation routes for vehicles and signed these routes. Weather disasters have shown that roads become quickly clogged with vehicles, either as a result of traffic jams and/or because people ran out of gas and couldn’t move their cars. Plans have also been developed to evacuate communities by walking but few plans have been developed for evacuating a city by biking. The highest land could be assigned as the evacuation route by bicycle with signs along the way. At intermittent locations, solar panels with outlets could be available for recharging cell phones and bike lights. Signs along the way could indicate public areas (shelters, bathrooms, water from a manual pump, bike pumps, etc.).

  1. Shared resources for disasters that includes bicycle-related components

Amongst shared resources for disasters (portable phone, message board, traffic cones, etc.), other items that could be included are bicycle generators, cargo bikes for carrying water or medical supplies, bicycle ambulances, bicycle pumps, bicycle tools, and containers to carry water, Bakfiet bikes to evacuate children, etc.