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5 ways to learn from bicycles

I have bicycles on my mind. This morning I dragged my road bike out of the shed after a long (very long) winter’s rest. I worked on the front wheel hub and brake housing. Within 25 minutes I had it all ready to go.

I remember back in college building a bike from the frame up, including the wheels and lacing the spokes. This hands-on accessibility is part of what makes bicycles so empowering. We can learn some basic mechanics from bikes.

Wearing my other hat, helping out a social enterprise called Luum (an online platform that motivates people to choose efficient transportation alternatives), I’ve also been looking into biking. For example, I’ve found a number of examples of innovations in bicycles, in materials, frame structures, method of operation. Here are a few examples of how bicycles can help us think about innovation.

The Fliz bike prototype from German designers
Tom Hambrock and Juri Spetter

Yojiro Oshima, of Craft & Industrial Design
Department at Musashino Art University in
Tokyo, made this wooden bike

IDEO worked with frame-builder Rock Lobster
to reimagine the utility bike, with interchangeable
front racks and a very discreete electric motor.

Seattle company Valid Cycles builds
custom bamboo bicycles.

As components of green travel, bicycles are also tied to buildings and street infrastructure. Buildings will have to make more room for bikes, both inside and out. Statistics show that cycling is taking off across America, with a 50% increase in the numbers commuting by bike between 2000 and 2011. So bicycles can help us study green urban mobility.

Bicycle safety helps us learn about diverse areas such as lighting, visibility and design against crime.

Helios handle bars with built in lights and a smart bluetooth
connection: turns any bike into a traceable smart bike

Even further, cycling fashion and feasibility often relies on the clothes we wear and the bags we carry on our bikes. Specialist clothing companies like Iva Jean, Telaio Clothing and Sonia McBride all design fashionable women’s clothes that perform well on a bike. So cycling is also a way to explore fashion design, particularly through clothes and bags.

zip pencil skirt for cycling by Iva Jean

So get those bikes into your classrooms and studios. They’ll help students learn about:

  • basic mechanics
  • innovation
  • safety
  • urban mobility
  • fashion design
  • and more!

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10 ways to work in sustainable design

I originally published this as an article in July, 2007 before I had this blog. Now I’m posting some of these older pieces on the blog because, sadly, they remain as timely as ever: 1. Cultivate the good company Corporate attention to money above all else, combined with the power and freedom of global finance,Continue Reading

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