The Flycycle by J2 for K2
The flycycle is efficient, accessible, easy for any organization to buy and install, and a beautiful addition to street life.
Julia Hansen studied city planning and value-centered design. Jeff Olinger is an architect. They both live and work near Kendall Square. Jeff drew up several designs for the bike rack and together, we discussed the pros and cons of the evolving design, covering factors such as amount and cost of materials used, ease of access for bikers, Cambridge city bike rack regulations, design whimsy, useful locations around Kendall Square, and compatibility with existing buildings and street design.
The flycycle bike rack builds on many other great designs for bike parking but takes special consideration for the conditions that face Kendall Square in particular.
- There are many good, but underused, locations for bike parking around Kendall Square. Sidewalks tend to be wide around new development; there are plenty of parking garages, pedestrian or low traffic plazas, as well as narrow corridors between buildings that could stand for some interesting design. The flycycle applies one, adaptable design to address the lack of bike parking in all these places, while considering its role as attractive street furniture.
- Kendall Square, as part of a New England city, can receive quite a bit of snow in winter. Space to park bikes is one of the first things to disappear after heavy snowfall. The flycycle, with one side elevated, offers a sturdy frame that lifts bikes above the first 6 inches or so of snow.
The flycycle achieves accessibility and high density by elevating one of two bikes parked against the same standalone frame. This allows the handlebars (usually the widest part of the bike) to avoid knocking each other. Compared to the “lollipop” rack or “inverted U” rack, this feature allows units to be placed closer together, enabling a greater number of racks in the same amount of space. Accessibility is increased when bikers don’t have to rearrange their bikes and adjacent bikes to avoid them toppling over, and the elevated part of the frame requires no extra strength to use. There is plenty of tube length on the flycycle to allow fitting a U-Lock anywhere on the bike. The flycycle can also be mounted against a wall, reducing the area necessary for bike parking in constrained spaces.
The flycycle is made from a single, affordable metal tube, no other parts necessary. It’s easy to mass-produce, yet customizable by painting different colors and arranging in different numbers and configurations.
In appearance, the flycycle calls to mind one side of a butterfly wing. A whimsical design choice, yet representative of the freedom and speed biking affords urban travelers.
The key functional characteristic is the “shoulder” on one side of the rack. It allows the biker to slide the front wheel of her bike forward and up a grooved inclined plane, the wheel coming to rest on two points, the top of the rounded "shoulder" joint and the bottom front of the "wing" where the tube bends to one side. The elevation this gives the front of the bike avoids the well-known, troublesome interference that occurs when two bikes are locked to the same post at the same height, each one’s handlebars and/or front baskets knocking into the other’s and forcing one front wheel to turn outwards, causing instability, wasted space, frustration, and threatening for the bikes to fall over, obstruct paths and possibly break. The shoulder forms a cradle for the front wheel, (but touches it at only two points to allow for various wheel sizes) and provides extra stability for the elevated bike. The elongated wing provides a long space to attach U-locks at many points to bike frames of different shapes. Pedals, which can also cause jumbling in crowded bike racks, are also at different heights when one bike is elevated.
Accessible for all: The flycycle allows one bike to rest with both wheels on the ground, as with the well-known lollipop design. The second bike is easily put into place, even with heavy bikes and for bikers with limited upper body strength. Simply bring the front wheel to the front of the “shoulder”, push, and it will be guided up and along the groove of the shoulder and into place, resting against the front bottom of the wing – no lifting required.
The flycyle accommodates bikes with panniers, baskets, and milk crates. The top of the flycycle is about the same height as the non-elevated bikes' wheel so it doesn't obstruct wider objects on top of the wheel. It also does not obstruct fenders since the cradle touches the elevated wheel low down.
Efficiency: The flycycle can be installed alone or in a row. In a row, the savings in ground space are considerable. Whereas traditional rows require 36 inches of space between units, the flycycle requires only 31 inches to achieve the same accessibility goals. Since one set of handlebars is elevated, two bikes can be parked with their frames practically touching each other, saving space next to the rack. This means that in a long row, the flycycle can be 20% more efficient than traditional racks. (And, if Cambridge is set on the 36-inch spacing standard, the flycycle provides the same efficiency with even better accessibility.) In places where space is so tight that vertical bike parking is necessary, the flycycle can be be rotated and mounted on a wall. In this case, since only one bike could be parked per unit, the spacing between units would be just 24 inches.
Alternative locations: Some places aren’t designed to accommodate several bikes in a safe and non-obstructive way. In places with limited space or where ground installation isn’t possible, the flycycle can be installed to a vertical surface. This allows bikers to park their bikes vertically if they wish, using the “cradle” to stabilize the front wheel while the back wheel rests on the ground. If someone doesn't want to park vertically, the wall-mounted flycycle also allows normal “two wheels on the ground” parking, as the tip of the "wing" provides a point to attach a U-lock to the frame of the bike.
Bike lift assist: The design integrates a bicycle lift assist device at the mounting plate for the wall mounted bicycle rack. The proposed lift assist can be achieved in several ways, in this version we have shown a simple articulated arm with constant-torsion-springs located at the joints of the arm. This design utilizes common commercially available components that are typically found in adjustable wall mounted television arms. Alternative versions of the lift could use a common car hood/trunk lid hinge, or a readily available door hold open hinge such as the Bommer 7811.
The sequence for the vertical racking of the bike is as follows: the person will grasp the "Hand Pommel" of the "Double J Hook", which will capture the bicycle at the connection between the handlebars and handlebar stem. Once engaged, a slight forward movement will release the hinge stay at the wall and gently lift the bike vertically. The rear wheel will be in constant contact with the ground, which will create a slight eccentricity in the movement of the bike as it is raised. The eccentric movement of the bike is accommodated by an articulated lift arm that enables the bicycle to move up and down as well as forward and backwards. Once the bike has been raised into position the lift arm aids in "pinning" the bike against the wall, with the wheel held firmly in the rack cradle. The bike is further secured once it is locked against the "wing" portion of the frame loop. To lower the bike, the person simply needs to grasp the pommel, and with a minimal amount of effort, lower the bike until it re-engages the hinge stay, allowing the arm to return to its natural "down" position.
The flycycle is made out of a single tube that is welded to itself on one end and secured at one point in a horizontal or vertical surface. The tube is 17 feet long. For ground installation, the flycycle uses a simple concrete block below ground level to secure the end of the tube. For wall-mounted installation, it uses a wall bracket and mounting plate. We chose to use just one material for the frame in order to maximize simplicity, elegance, and ease of maintenance. With just one point of support, installation is also as simple as possible.
See renderings in the brochure link for more detail.
Estimated Production Costs
A metal tube is the single material needed for the flycycle design. Steel pipe, aluminum tube, and stainless steel pipe are all acceptable materials. For this budget, we are assuming a 1.5” x 17’ long powder coated cold formed steel pipe. We are also assuming the flycycle is installed on the ground with a 6” diameter x 1’ deep concrete footing.
Total pipe length per unit: 17 feet
Raw steel pipe, cost per foot: $2.50
Concrete block, per unit: $10
Total materials, per unit: $52.50
Steel pipe forming & finishing per foot: $2.00
Total cost per horizontal unit: $86.50
Actuators for vertical unit: $40
Steel components for vertical unit: $40
Total cost per vertical unit: $166.50
We would first make a prototype of the flycycle to test its dimensions and some key elements, particularly the stability of the front wheel as it rolls up and into the shoulder and the mechanics of the lift assist arm. The design finalized, we envision the flycycle frame to be shaped and finished in a local metalworking shop that can produce several hundred units. The City of Cambridge would buy the frames in bulk, install some in public spaces such as along sidewalks, and resell the remainder to other organizations to install in private spaces. These organizations could have the option of using the City’s contractors for installation, easing the burden on small businesses to buy and install a rack. The timeline for testing and production is roughly 3 months, and installation can happen indefinitely.
City of Cambridge (2013) Cambridge Bicycle Parking Guide. [Accessed 25 January 2016].
Discount Steel. discountsteel.com [Accessed: 25 January 2016].
Federal Highway Administration University Course on Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/pedbike/05085/chapt17.cfm. [Accessed 3 March 2016].
Howard, Richard. Bommer 7811-652 Horizontal Spring Pivot.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Tz-iaGTqII[Accessed 26 February 2016].
EPivots.com.www.epivots.com/bommer-7811.aspx?gclid=CjwKEAiAx--2BRDO6q2T84_a52YSJABWAbfrhz37MI3D4WF4-JnFYB2oGduAyi7tT8nil765wo5f9hoCYN7w_wcB[Accessed 6 March 2016].
Harris Cyclery. 2013. The story of a wooden bicycle crate.http://blog.harriscyclery.com/the-story-of-a-crate13 May 2013.[Accessed 6 March 2016].