That hoop, in action.
With recent claims about the lack of cycling spaces in the capital, London cyclists have been left wondering who will answer their cries for help. The hero in this story may well end up being Anthony Lau, a graduate from University College London who thinks he may have the answer. A number of boroughs have already trialling his invention. It's called the Cyclehoop and it uses a clever yet simple design to fit onto existing posts, thereby creating extra spaces for cyclists.
How did you come across this idea?
I was at University College London studying architecture when I entered the Reinventing the Bike Shed design competition in 2006 - this competition asked designers to come up with new solutions to cycle parking. I also recently had my bike stolen - guess what, it was LIFTED over the top of a signpost. This is what got me thinking about making parking on signposts more secure. I started off with many complicated designs, things that hung in the air, mechanisms that hold the frame wheel seat etc.... but in the end it all boiled down to this simple hoop, because simple works.
How would you rate the current bike parking situation?
There just isn't enough bicycle parking in London. With the plan to double the number of trips made by bike by 2025, that's another 100,000 bicycle spaces required. This will be impossible to achieve with our busy streets and narrow pavements. Installing so many traditional racks is expensive and will add to the street 'clutter'. In busy parts of central London you have bicycles locked to railings, signposts, lampposts - this indicates that there are either not enough bicycle stands or they are not in the right location.
How easy has it been getting in contact with the various London boroughs and councils throughout the UK?
Winning the Reinventing the bike shed competition was really helpful in getting the idea out to the councils. The hardest part is getting the first council to take up the idea. However, once you are able to trial the product with one council and get it installed in the street, it becomes much easier to convince others to follow suit.
How much of your time is this currently taking up?
Too much! I still work part time as an architect, and so I spend the rest of the week and weekends on the Cyclehoop. There is still a lot of work to do in terms of marketing, calling up councils, managing the manufacture and installation, but once this is all set up I look forward to spending more time on new designs.
How secure is the cyclehoop?
The Cyclehoop is probably more secure than your average bicycle rack. It can be bolted permanently onto a signpost with permanent nuts. In terms of attack resistant, a typical bicycle rack is tubular steel and can be sawn through, whereas the Cyclehoop is solid steel and would take 4 to 5 times longer to saw through. At the end of the day, most theft is due to weak locks or poor locking habits; large educational stickers are applied above each Cyclehoop to promote better locking and tips such as ‘lock both frames and wheel’.
Who else do you have working on this?
It is still predominantly a one man team - with any new business you have to start that way and by doing everything yourself, you understand how your business works. However I will get people to help me on more specialist areas like accounting, web design, business advice etc. I also work with several cycle parking companies and cycle parking manufacturers. I hope to hire permanent staff at some point.
Where can you see this project going? What would you like to get out of it?
Cyclehoop is only the beginning as I have many other designs in the pipeline. I believe Cyclehoop and its related products will change the way we think about cycle parking and will spawn a whole new range of street furniture. This is my first business and my first product. I hope to learn a great deal from this and that it leads to many more successful projects.
What problem in London will you tackle next?
I want to tackle the bicycle thieves next - I hope to design a remote control exploding bicycle seat that is operated by text message!
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
I have never been physically sick but being on the tube is not a nice experience so I hardly take the tube. Why would you if you could ride a bike and enjoy wonderful London?
If you want to check out the Cyclehoop in action take a walk along the streets of Islington, Southwark, Lambeth, Camden, Lewisham, Hammersmith or Fulham . Alternatively check out the Cyclehoop website.
By Andreas Kambanis. Read more of Andreas' thoughts on cycling in London over on his blog.