New designs join the fight against bike theft

Friday 8 May 2009

Bike theft across the UK could be a thing of the past following the development of a new secure bike parking design called 'Velo-K'.

One of four winning entries to the RSA's 'Design against Bicycle Theft' project, Velo-K aims to reduce both the time and effort it takes to park, as well as the risk of theft and vandalism.  Submitted by student designer Grant Howarth, Velo-K protects bicycles at the main points of susceptibility to crime – the wheels and saddle.

Grant Howarth joins students from around the UK as a winner of this year's Design Directions - the RSA's annual design awards in which students are challenged to address intractable social problems through innovative new design. 

Bike theft - Grant

Grant's project, Velo-K is targeted at councils, businesses and schools, offering them the chance to make a bold statement by replacing car parking spaces with purpose built bicycle parking places. He proposes using boards at each end of the product to offer additional protection and space for advertising, helping to offset the purchase price.

The other winners of 'Design against bicycle theft' include:

James Peacock, The University of Nottingham, designed the 'camp-o-lock', a portable device designed for use outdoors where there is nothing to which to attach a bicycle – ideal for camping and touring.  

Bike theft - James Peacock

Nicholas Sharp, Northumbria University, mybike joins together a range of existing ideas to form a single effective system to deter bike theft including bikeregister.com and an electronic tagging system, whereby a chip is embedded in the bike frame by the seller or cyclist, and can then be read using an RFID reader by the police or bike shops, enabling them to check a bike's ID number on the registration site and identify any which are stolen.

Bike theft - Nicholas Sharp 

Nicholas has designed an RFID reader, to hang from police belts, enabling them quick access to determine a bike's ID number which they radio back to the station where it is checked on the online register.

Tom Pandé, design proposed a lightweight, wearable composite bike lock that addresses three weak points found in cable locks, chain locks and D-locks. Materials (including Kevlar (a light, strong, synthetic fibre), stainless steel rollers and compression moulded silicon) are woven together to create a stronger lock which is harder to cut through. Tom plans to test the lock with bicycle couriers in London. 

Bike theft - Tom Pande

Commenting on the winning entry, the RSA's Head of Design, Emily Campbell said:

 "Grant Howarth's solution integrates a clever security device with storage, spectacle and market sense. Along with Peacock, Sharp and Pande, he continues the history of innovation by the brightest students which the RSA awards have honoured for much of the last century.”

Adam Thorpe, Creative Director of Design against Crime Research Centre, commenting on the quality of the entries, said:

 "HG Wells, no stranger to innovative thinking, said,  "When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race”. When we saw the entries to the RSA/Home Office 'Design against bicycle theft' project we were equally upbeat about the future UK design talent and what it can contribute to reducing cycle theft and increasing cycle use. The quality and diversity of approaches, together with their originality and viability, was particularly encouraging.  The designers really understood how to reduce the risk of theft without reducing the convenience and appeal of cycling.”
 
He also made the following comments on two of the winners in particular:  "Tom Pande's 'Wearable Lock' applied user centred considerations (carrying locks is a hassle and chains across the body can be painful in a fall) and materials research to conveniently address both security (quality lock easily carried and deployed) and safety (lock doubles as high viz sash).”
 
"Perhaps the best illustration of the difference a service design approach can make was Nicholas Sharp's 'mybike' concept. This cleverly combined the best of existing technologies and approaches used within bike registration and marking schemes, to create a scheme that offered the cyclist the best of all worlds in terms of security whilst also being attractive to acquire and fun to implement – a real improvement on what's out there! "

Download the full press release containing winning designs (PDF, 417KB)

View gallery of winning entries for RSA Design Directions 2008-09