02 Mar 2016
Our current global system of transportation, automobiles, and fueled engines, are powered by energy that pollutes. Indeed, automobile fuel emits 30 percent of climate changing CO2 pollution. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and trends show a steady increase in urban concentration in the future. Moreover, urban mobility limitations have reached a critical stage, causing, as well as other factors, deterioration of the environment and living conditions. Recently, we have seen:
• An exponential rise in urban traffic leading to reduced mobility;
• Noise levels and emissions of carbon dioxide and other polluting gases which exceed established thresholds for human health;
• Family savings shifting towards gasoline, car maintenance, insurance, and accident coverage;
• High rates of obesity, not only because of poor dietary habits, but also largely due to a sedentary lifestyle. This leads to diabetes and other health problems as well as increased healthcare expenses.
The problems caused by urban traffic are bound to become even more acute due to the above-mentioned urbanization. Researching and implementing solutions is, therefore, imperative.
On average, one in every four inhabitants in urban areas in the US, Latin America, and in Europe possesses a bicycle. However, factors such as personal safety, discomfort, and inconvenience (e.g. riding in the rain or carrying bikes up staircases or in elevators) function as deterrents, preventing the widespread use of private bicycles.
However, a new system of transportation utilizing clean energy has been developed. This system is composed of electronic parking stations for different types of privately-owned or rented bicycles. A variety of rental bikes are available, including regular bikes, cargobikes, electrical bikes, bikes with a protective roof, small tricycles, and hand operated tricycles (HOTs) for people with limited mobility. The parking station is to be installed in cities, on sidewalks, on streets, occupying some of the space used for automobile parking, and eventually in malls and in indoor shopping areas. This system will be integrated with preexisting systems of mass transportation.
The automated parking system will enable people to:
- Park or store any privately-owned bicycle on the long-term, minimizing the risk of theft of the bike, of some of its parts, and anything on it or around it, for a reasonable fee;
- Rent bicycles from different companies;
- Make a reservation of a parking space at a certain time and place, to park one’s privately-owned bicycle or to rent different types of bicycles;
- Search and reserve a bike with special characteristics (electric, with light bike body, with space to accommodate goods, etc);
- Find quick repair and battery recharge services.
Thanks to the variety of options it offers, the system favors flexibility of people’s time and autonomy, while turning the ideal door-to-door form of mobility into a reality.
The system goes beyond bike sharing, and will ensure bike security for the user. With the goal of offering a safe system of transportation, the parking stations are semi-closed and covered by a transparent material to protect the bicycles and keep them available even in the case of rain or snow. Solar panels may be installed on the system’s roof, making it a self-sustaining system. The solar energy powers the parking station and can be sold to the neighboring residences in case of an energy surplus. Moreover, the parking stations are modular, they can be assembled and disassembled in 90 minutes, facilitating a temporary installation for big events or transfer as required, without damaging the streets or sidewalks. Users with personal bicycles will be able to leave their bikes secured for a fee, making the system inclusive. The user registers and receives a smart card to access the system and a chip to install in the bicycle. The system also includes the option of researching and reserving a parking space or bicycle online, through telephone, SMS, internet, or in-person at the station.
Systems such as this will encourage people in urban areas to increase their level of physical activity, not only to improve their health, but the health of their cities as well. It is important, now more than ever, to develop a “green economy” founded on the use of renewable energies and sustainable development.
Dr. Pedro R. Kanof is the founder of Kanof Mobility Solutions (KMS) and has worked for more than 20 years on urban transportation systems.