To put this project in context, I must first describe my larger goal. My focus is on advancing the potential of active transit systems. To create a system that reduces travel time and increases the safety and well-being of the patron; the challenge is both in the design of the vehicles and the infrastructure. The latter is the subject of a book I am working on, the focus of this post is on the vehicle. For the time being, let me at least say, one cannot exist without the other.
The intent of this study is the development bicycle that can double the average cruising speed of the standard bicycle. Given that the standard cruising speed of normal cyclist is around 12 mph, attaining a cruising speed of 24 mph is somewhat attainable (elite cyclists can average this or greater cruising speeds for extended periods of time). The most straight forward means of increasing velocity is through aerodynamics. The astonishing feats of speed, on human power alone, at Battle Mountain are a testament to this principle (http://www.recumbents.com/wisil/whpsc2009/speedchallenge-2009.htm). Shifting the human form into a reclined position is the most efficient means of optimizing the aerodynamics of the human form. Thus, my design focus has been on the refinement of the recumbent bicycle.
Before digressing at length on the details of aerodynamics and the mechanics involved in my work, I should first explain some of the more practical challenges that must be addressed. First and foremost is cost. To be effective, an active transit system must be accessible to all people. Therefore establishing the ZIPcycle as a sharing program is key. The price of a ZIPcycle would be comparable to a high end racing bike, precluding private ownership from the masses. If this cost were to be amortized over much larger group of people, i.e. members of a ZIPcycle sharing program, it would become an affordable public mode of transit. Advertising could also play a significant role in cutting costs, as proven by the Citi Bike system set to open in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens (http://citibikenyc.com).
Beyond the aesthetic appeal of any concept, the most critical aspect of this design exploration is safety. Most issues of safety associated with the ZIPcycle find resolution in the dedicated separation of pedestrians, motor vehicles, and bicycles. In fact most issues of safety find resolution in the design and detailing of the infrastructure. That being said, the ZIPcycle must be stable at high speeds, adjustable and comfortable for a variety of body types, and as 'easy' to ride as a standard bicycle.
Currently we have many issues to face as a society. As obesity rates soar, providing attractive opportunities for exercise,
may be our best hope for battling the epidemic of diseases associated
with the sedentary lifestyle. Transit systems across the globe are surpassing capacity while infrastructure budgets dwindle. As urban centers become more and more dense, we must find ways to improve our experiential quality of life. While only being a singular element in a larger system to effect positive change and economic well-being, the effects of implementing active transit systems, and in this instance rapid active transit systems, can prove immeasurable.