These New 3D Printed Tools Allow for Harmony Between Cyclists & Motorists


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f157ed28971367.55dc06bc3f21cThe use and ownership of bicycles is at an all-time high due to numerous obvious factors–but one new factor seems to be that the millennial crowd is more and more reluctant to plunk down money on those traditional life-long investments our parents saw as feathers in the hat for accomplishing anything at all in life–with the purchase of a reliable automobile and a home properly appointed for a family.

From city life to the small-town culture, many are eschewing the automobile in favor of the bike–and some are taking it to the next level–shedding the ideals of traditional manufacturing for bicycles as well in terms of safety mechanisms and accessories.

Tor Robinson of New Zealand became quite enmeshed in the cycling culture as she worked on a project at Carnegie Mellon University, where she spent a semester studying abroad. The mission of her project was to research ways to encourage cycling even further in urban environments. She endeavored to use both a low-tech and a high-tech solution.

“I decided to investigate the relationship people had with cycling,” said Robinson.

UntitledThe results of a survey she conducted as research were very surprising and almost comical, presenting the level of apathy bicyclists had on nearly every level–which is the direct opposite of how many of us see the cycling crowd in terms of their being fastidious about keeping their bikes protected, constantly maintaining and worrying over them as well as being passionate about exploring and furthering their mechanics. Not so everywhere!

Those involved with cycling in the area reported rarely maintaining their bikes–or even caring. More surprisingly, the under-20 crowd expected their parents to be responsible for taking care of the bikes. And not so surprisingly–after hearing the aforementioned information–the majority had been involved in bicycling accidents.

We’re all aware of the tension that often exists on the road between motorists and cyclists. Robinson pinpointed this as an issue, and targeted solutions in order to get more bikers out there.

“For my low-tech solution I decided to challenge the anxiety users had with safety on the road. I wanted to give people the power to interact and affect their own environment, and consider the effects of their own actions,” said Robinson. “Sometimes you need to disturb a system in order to see its strengths and weaknesses, and I could do that by letting the user create their own infrastructure.”

6895c928971367.55dc297ce62d5Her idea was demonstrated with a simple 3D printed tool called the ‘create a bike lane tool.’ Designed in SOLIDWORKS, the device is pretty darned clever and once again (as is so often the case with these 3D printed innovations), makes us wonder why we’ve never had one of these. The piece simple sticks out far enough to create a bit of a barrier, albeit narrow. You’d have to be very distracted to miss it though. And that was the more simple phase of the project. Pretty good for starters, right?

Next, Robinson went the high-tech route.

“I could afford to look into the future, and design a product that could create a better society, not just make people think about it,” she said. “I identified the dangerous elements of cycling on a road, and the weaknesses of the connection between cyclist and motorist. I also conducted further research into future technologies, such as smart roads, driverless cars, safety innovations and examples of integrated technology in bicycles.”

3a52a028971367.55de76cbb25d6Her concerns are all extremely relevant, and her ideas for solutions very forward thinking. For instance, her idea to employ communications and GPS so that both drivers and cyclists can just avoid each other–and in other instances, just communicate better–is pretty brilliant.

What if you were driving and knew ahead of time that a large group of cyclists was ahead? Wouldn’t you rather just re-route? What if as a bicyclist you were better able to signal turns? With the idea for a GPS device, as well as making modifications to the gear and brake mechanisms, Robinson set out to create ways for added safety, even allowing for communications where a motorist would be instructed not to open their door because a cyclist was coming up behind them. Groups of bikers could be encouraged to ride single file.

Robinson began putting all of her ideas into action with digital design, with the idea to 3D print a central controlling hub for the rider to interact with. The hub consists of a navigating light, as well as a panel that changes color when vehicles are coming closer.Untitled

“I also considered how bicycles might seem to fit better in a future world of driverless cars by creating communication between differing modes of transport, and putting bicycles ‘on the grid’. This system can ideally be described as having ‘two-way situational awareness’,”said Robinson. “Each component of the design, whether it is physical or digital, is vitally important to the function of the system as a whole.”

Although an avid cyclist throughout life, Robinson learned a lot of surprising things during the project, and she was able to come up with a real-life solution that would work today in terms of the ‘create your own bike lane’ tool. The high-tech version is admittedly more futuristic, but the concept works in helping to ease tension between motorists and bicyclists, and allow them to exist on the roads together better. Safety is the top priority, and with that further ensured, even more people should want to get out on the road.

Robinson documented her project thoroughly in his Behance portfolio.

Are you able to relate to a lot of these issues? Have you created any 3D printed devices for cycling, and are any of them related to safety? What more do you think could be added here with digital design and 3D printing? Discuss in the 3D Printed Biking Tools forum thread over at



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