ITP Fall 2011 Design For UNICEF
Summary: Lifecycle is a bike kit designed for Northern Uganda emergency transit. It quickly connects two normal bikes and turns them into an emergency transport vehicle. This project was created in collaboration with Alvin Chang, Emily Webster, Jamie Lin, and Lia Martinez in the “Design for UNICEF” class at ITP. Complete documentation can be found at lifecyclebike.org and and my initial blog post can be found HERE.
Problem: The main methods of transportation in rural Northern Uganda are biking and walking. But incapacitated people — pregnant women, sick children and the injured — can’t be carried on single bikes because of instability. This forces them to walk, several hours in some cases, to receive treatment at clinics. This can be impossible for those needing immediate medical care. Lifecycle tries to remedy that problem.
Research: We researched the transportation problems in Northern Uganda for people trying to reach clinics. In addition, we researched and acknowledged the possibility of using Lifecycle as a cart that transports goods to the market. This insight came from talking directly to people at UNICEF and local Ugandans. We also spoke with bike experts to research what types of mechanisms would best allow for two bikes to be connected. We went through three iterations of the bike kit and, each time — after a fall or two — learned what mechanisms were crucial to making a bike kit like this sturdy. We eventually tested our final iteration on cobblestone roads in New York City, which you can view in the video above.
As far as stakeholder interests, we considered a model that was initially funded by UNICEF. But the initial product would have strong documentation as well as a clear design allowing locals to create their own version of the product with local materials.
Solution: The Lifecycle kit provides pieces that can quickly and safely connect almost any two bikes. We wanted to offer a design that is not only a product, but also a template for users in Northern Uganda to iterate upon with local supplies. While we are using specific materials, the specificity of materials isn’t crucial to the project. Instead, the combination of small mechanisms make the connection work. For example, a integral aspect to ensure stability of the system is that the wheels moves in unison. The hope is that by showing local Ugandans a potential business in building four-wheel vehicles out of parts that already exist — or building kits that transform their two-wheel bikes into stable four-wheel carts — we can spur locally-driven innovation in the area of personal transportation.