Crazy mobility idea moves city bikes by balloon

Perhaps the very concept is impractical, but fledgling designer Marcus Burnham's entry into this year's bike share design competition at the Bicycle Design web site is definitely unique. It features a hot air balloon attached to a carousel of bicycles. With the balloon, not only do bike sharing stations get a great big advertising platform 24 x 7, they are also mobile. Or so Burnham suggests with his design specification, described at the Bicycle Design site:

"The bikes will be transported between locations by increasing the heat pumped into the balloon so that it may float into the sky with the rack of bikes connected. Once the balloon is at a suitable height a grappling rope can by discharged down to its next docking station using GPS tracking. A member of staff will then connect the grappling rope to the docks winch, so that the balloon can release some of its heat and be slowly drawn down to its next destination."

For most cities - with snarls of wires overhead, telephone and traffic poles on the sidewalk and numerous other obstructions - this seems like it would be a difficult concept to actually carry out. But maybe stationary balloons would be good enough thanks to the marketing angle.

It's certainly refreshing that Burnham is trying something totally unique to both advertise bike sharing, which is growing all over the world, and solve the problem of moving bikes around to the areas that have the highest density of riders. While Vélib may be the most famous bike share system because of the iconic appearance of the bikes, Washington D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare has been an unexpected success in the U.S. capital city.

BalloonBikes, as Burnham's design for a bike sharing station is called, is one of 11 different concepts entered in Bicycle Design's competition, which you can vote on here.

Another interesting bike-share development: How to rent helmets to bike share users in cities with helmet laws is a thorny problem that may be holding back some U.S. systems. None of the Bicycle Design entries tackle the problem, but recently SandVault, the company that won Vancouver's bike sharing system contract, unveiled a bicycle helmet dispenser to go along with sharing stations. Take a peek at the Public Bikeshare blog.

And if Vancouver choose the helmet vending machines, the helmets will have RFID chips to help signal they've been used so they are sanitized in between cyclists.

Via Bicycle Design

Crazy mobility idea moves city bikes by balloon
This rendering of a balloon-based bike sharing station makes it easy to drop stations and move them around for friendly mobility.

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