In fact, the statistics show that in London around half a million journeys a day were made by bicycle in 2009, a 5 per cent increase on 2008 and a 117 per cent increase since 2004.
However, theft is the single greatest deterrent to bicycle use after fears over road safety. As a result, this is an area that Design Out Crime is currently looking at.
This initiative, which is funded by the Home Office’s Design and Technology Alliance Against Crime and run by the Design Council, aims to demonstrate the important role design can play in preventing crimes and reducing criminal activity.
Previous Design Out Crime projects included tackling alcohol-related crime and mobile phone theft.
Design consultancy Rodd Industrial Design has taken part in these previous projects and its managing director, Ben Davies, feels that designers should definitely be involved in issues relating to social change or government policy.
“Rodd are design thinkers. We apply our thinking to complex challenges, things that need a mix of empathy, technical and business thinking,” says Davies, “as professional designers we provide the inspiration, through projects such as this, to kick-start new thinking and new ways of seeing. Long may it last.”
As research showed that two-thirds of bicycles stolen in the UK are stolen from the cyclists’ homes, Design Out Crime wanted to focus specifically on bicycle theft in residential areas.
So, the Residential Bicycle Theft Challenge was launched in January 2011. This began a nationwide search for designers who could answer the brief of developing secure, affordable and easy-to-use ways of securing bicycles against theft from homes.
Up to four design teams would each be given £10 000 to help develop a new idea or to get an existing solution to market. They had to focus on one or more locations around the home: immediately outside the home (front garden or passageway between houses); in an outbuilding (garden shed); or shared indoors (private or semi-private hallway in shared housing or flats).
However, the real challenge was that they would have just four weeks in which to develop their ideas. The deadline of submissions was 2 February and by 4 February the four winning design teams had been notified.
Rodd Industrial Design, Cyclehoop, Front Yard Company and Submarine Product Design now had exactly one month until they had to present their results and prototypes to the Design Out Crime team on 4 March.
Rodd, having been involved in previous Design Out Crime challenges, was pleased to be involved again. From the start the design team knew that they wanted to develop a solution for shared residential spaces.
This made sense as two people in the team were keen cyclists and both lived in multi-occupancy housing, which meant they could draw on their own experiences.
“This ability to tap into direct experience is core to our Observe.Innovate.Design methodology, granted that in most consulting projects the user base might be a little broader. But given the four-week timeline, this felt perfectly acceptable,” says Davies.
Rodd started off their process by sketching ideas roughly onto Post-It notes. These were then stuck to the studio wall to discuss with the rest of the team.
Well over 50 ideas were generated and the best were shortlisted to be prototyped. “Prototyping is a pretty evocative term but to us this means doing just enough with whatever materials appropriate to test a hunch as quickly as possible,” explains Davies.
Some rough rigs were constructed in the studio to prove out multiple concepts. “We chose to focus on designing through building, so there was very little purely cosmetic sketch work or visuals to speak of but drawing to communicate as a team is central to the way we work, regardless of the timeline, so there was plenty of that,” he adds.
Having explored many solutions, the team had ear-marked one lead concept to develop further. However, at the mid-point review, the Design Out Crime mentor suggested that they develop a second concept too.
They now had just two weeks to develop two demonstration prototypes. As there was no time to utilise a rapid prototyping bureau, they resolved all the manufacturing and mechanisms in-house.
Rodd managed it and produced a prototype for each concept. The first, Lupin, is an innovative low-cost portable ‘anchor’. It allows cyclists a means of securing their bicycle in the hallway immediately outside their home.
“Lupin, as its name suggests, is a lightweight, fixing loop that is slid through the gap above the bottom hinge of the door. A conventional bike lock can then be daisy-chained to provide a fixed point in any residential environment,” says Davies.
Armlock, on the other hand, is fixed to the wall and the cyclist merely cycles up to it, offers up the frame and an auto-trigger mechanism shoots a plastic clad steel bolt across it, securing the bike.
The bolt can go through either the top tube or seat tube, depending on how the user wants to mount the bike. When not in use, Armlock can be folded back to the wall.
Unlike Rodd, Cyclehoop is a company that specialises in producing indoor and outdoor cycle parking solutions. “We have experience as designers of bicycle parking and street furniture for the public realm, but were astonished when statistics revealed that 60 per cent of theft happened at or near the home of the cyclist,” says Anthony Lau, Cyclehoop’s managing director.
“As cyclists ourselves, we were very keen to tackle this challenge and improve bicycle parking and security in the residential market.”
Cyclehoop also chose to create a solution for bicycle security outside the home and in shared indoor areas. In the four weeks, Cyclehoop developed four prototypes of its Bikestand concept together with computer visualisations, as well as ideas for packaging.
“Our proposal is a flat-pack product that can be easily assembled and left in a hallway or in the garden,” says Lau.
“Traditional wall anchors or racks require drilling into walls, which can be difficult to install and visually intrusive, requiring permission from the landlord. When used indoors, our design can either be free-standing or screwed into the skirting board.
"This makes it very simple to install with minimal impact on the walls. When used outdoors, the unit can be bolted to the floor or wall, or left free standing if in a relatively secure neighbourhood,” he adds.
Submarine Product Design used the £10 000 to further develop their concept for an enclosed bicycle shed.
“Research on existing secure bicycle enclosures and buyer/user reviews suggested that many of the products on the market, while offering various perfunctory levels of basic cover and protection for bikes, fell short in offering total, or even sufficient, security against determined bicycle thieves,” explains Jon Barnes, partner at Submarine Design.
“We wanted to try to design an enclosure that could offer significant improvements on the overall strength, rigidity and construction, and internal security.”
Their Gear Box concept integrates tried and tested ‘secure’ components within the overall design. This includes a strong rail inside to lock bicycles on to, as well as easy, independent access on opposite sides of the enclosure.
This allows for the possibility of two cyclists in a shared residence to each store their bicycles separately in the shed.
The Front Yard Company had already produced their PlantLock product and used the £10 000 to re-examine the manufacturing possibilities as well as look at market development.
The company designs and manufactures attractive storage solutions for front yards and gardens. PlantLock is essentially a solid planter that two bicycles can be locked to.
“Many options for home tend to be industrial in nature, rather than domestic. That’s why PlantLock is novel. It mixes planting and cycling in equal measure,” says Duncan Kramer, Front Yard Company’s co-founder.
“Simple to install, secure green bike parking. No drilling or concreting-in, just fill with compost, have fun planting it, and lock your bikes safely outside your home straight away.”
At the end of the four weeks, on 4 March the four design teams gathered at the Design Council to present their prototypes and discuss the progress they had made.
“It was great to see all the design teams approach the problem from different angles along with different outputs as this will allow a wide range of innovative solutions to tackle the issue of bicycle theft and home parking,” says Lau of Cyclehoop.
The results were indeed impressive and although it’s still early days, the hope is that the designs will be put into production. A couple of the teams are currently protecting their intellectual property through various means and are looking to license their designs to suitable manufacturers.
“This challenge has allowed us to take the problems associated with crime and turn them into commercial opportunities for designers,” says Mike Smart, a design strategist at the Design Council who was involved in mentoring the four design teams.
“Through challenges like this we can drive innovation in the marketplace, help designers thrive by allowing them to exploit the intellectual property they generate, and hopefully get great products into the hands of cyclists who will benefit from them.”