Two prototypes of anti-pollution bicycles are emerging from the fog in China and Japan. The first public models should be available for testing by the end of the year.
Tokyo, from our correspondent
For the past few years, two prototype bicycles, designed to clean or monitor toxic elements in the air, were each brewing in their corner.
In Beijing, China’s notoriously congested and smoggy capital, British maker artist Matt Hope had in 2012 created his Breathing Bicycle, a bike augmented with found objects that sucked in the air around it through an Ikea wastebasket before releasing the purified air into a jet fighter mask attached to the cyclist’s helmet… “A ridiculous solution for a ridiculous problem,” according to its inventor.
Matt Hope presents his “Breathing Bicycle” (2013):
But Hope’s breathing bike was more of a provocative art piece to attract public attention. It wasn’t until September 2016, during a talk about the Smog Free Project by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde, organized by the M Woods museum in Beijing and moderated by Tsinghua University professor Yang Dongjiang, that the idea for the Smog Free Bicycle was born, inspired by the encounter between Matt Hope’s bicycle and Roosegaarde’s air-purifying tower, currently installed in Dalian.
The Smog Free Bicycle would operate the same way as the tower, like a giant air purifier, using positive ionisation technology that eliminates a large quantity of particulate matter (PM) in its immediate environment (up to 45% reduction of PM10 and 25% reduction of PM2.5 within a 10-meter radius around the tower).
Daan Roosegaarde presents his “Smog Free Project” (2017):
On June 29, 2017 at the World Economic Forum in Dalian, Roosegaarde announced his partnership with Ofo, the Chinese bike-sharing company with more than 20 million users, and the Shanghai-based design agency Tezign. Meanwhile, the anti-smog bicycle will be developed in China and the Netherlands over the next few months, so it should be only a matter of time before the first public models hit the streets—hopefully in a city near you.
Reinventing the wheel in Fukushima
In Japan, Jun Yamadera was searching for a solution to revive the local economy, not to mention uplift spirits, in his hometown of Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima prefecture, which had become a ghost town following the seismic nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011. As the town had lost 90% of its tourists overnight, better to offer both visitors and residents the means to monitor themselves the quality of the air they were breathing while pedaling.
The resulting prototype, Fukushima Wheel, is also the bicycle that wants to do it all: use the latest mobile and GPS technologies to make bike-sharing as easy and secure as possible; display advertising or other animated or customized images on the wheels equipped with dynamic LEDs; monitor the levels of radiation, air pollution, temperature, humidity, etc., using a DIY sensor kit developed by Safecast, the grassroots collective behind the famous bGeigie… and why not a boombox and a bubble machine?
While the initial goal of these reinvented wheels may be commercial, the heart of the project is the power of engagement through citizen science to protect the environment, beginning in a disaster area. Fukushima Wheel is always looking for investors and partnerships with bike-share providers, and Yamadera says that the prototypes will be field tested in Fukushima this summer.
Jun Yamadera presents Fukushima Wheel at TEDx Kobe (2015, English subtitles):