When Patrick Kroetsch’s orange and white, newly painted bike was stolen from right outside his university he was “gutted.”
But then the 23-year-old industrial design student at the Ontario College of Design started to think about why so many bikes are stolen in the GTA, even when they are locked up.
The problem was reinforced while he worked at a cycle shop where he constantly met customers whose bikes had been stolen. Toronto police report that over 3,000 bikes were stolen in 2011.
“As a designer you are taught to look for problems everywhere,” says Mr. Kroetsch. He thinks he’s come up with a solution for this one. He’s created a prototype of the new lock station system for his thesis project.
“People don’t know how to lock their bikes properly so I wanted to create a system that made locking your bike the right way the only way to use it, “ he says.
Mr. Kroetsch calls even expensive locks “a Victorian solution, a big heavy piece of steel,” which can be cracked fairly easily. He adds that the typical ring and post system of bike stands scattered across Toronto can be broken with a two-by-four.
Mr. Kroetsch’s design is based on some of the same principles as the BIXI bike borrowing system such as flexibility, simplicity and portability.
“You lock your personal bike into it, a lever comes from behind your front wheel and locks the front wheel of your bike nice and securely,” he says.
Users would get an electronic fob to unlock the system. Several stands would be grouped together in areas where there is a lot of bicycle traffic.
His idea is to also offer people a membership to the service. For a fee comparable to the one people currently pay to use BIXI, they could also have access to an online “insurance” database where they would keep a photo of their bike along with the serial number and their contact information.
This is important because many people do not keep records of their serial numbers and without them it’s very hard for police to track bicycles that are stolen.
A subscriber would also receive hardware to permanently secure other vulnerable parts of the bicycle, which they could unlock with the electronic fob.
Mr. Kroetsch says his already met with BIXI founders in Montreal and had “very positive feedback from them.”
But the project would take some cash and political will to get off the ground.
“It’s an idea. You would have to find a municipality who would be willing to develop the project,” he says.
In exchange for paying for the development of the project, a city could get the intellectual property rights, sell to other cities and then generate a revenue stream. He hopes that corporations might also kick-in some funding.
As for Toronto, he hopes one day it might be something the city is interested in.
“I would love to see something like this existing in Toronto, but the current administration’s not very cyclist friendly,” he says.