While I’m not quite sure what problem University of Pennsylvania engineers were attempting to solve with their rapid-prototyped Alpha bike, I have to admit it caught my eye. The student-designed and built bicycle, which pushes “the boundaries of integrated systems,” fully encases the drive train, a clutch for switching between fixed and freewheels, and a computer for tracking bike stats (e.g. speed, gear status).
As a cyclist, I don’t see a need for all the features of this bike. However, parts of it seem like useful progressions. Specifically, the onboard computer reminds me of the Copenhagen Wheel project that we showcased – a bicycle wheel with self-contained tracking capability that communicates with your mobile device and can store your cycling data. This information, as I’ve noted before, would be extremely useful in aggregate if/when enough adopters are found. The ability of cities to track cyclists’ use of the transportation network facilitates better identification of danger hotspots and better planning.
It seems we are a long way from this tracking because of individuals’ reluctance to open their data, however having the technological advances in place that allow for this tracking is a necessary first step, especially if manufacturers are already embracing the concept.