#622: Freewheeling

Public transport is great but I’d like to link it somehow with a bicycle at either end of the journey. Fold-up bikes are not great…they are costly, complex and have ridiculously small wheels, making their use just too much of a pain on any gradient worth the name.

There have been many bike sharing and free pooling schemes, most of which have seen the said machines disappear into a container, headed ultimately towards rural China. Today’s invention is an alternative approach.

Make many bicycle wheels of a single, sensible size and at very low cost. Leave large numbers of these in public places and then sell people each a suitably-sized generic frame (fitted with a small, removable plastic roller where the back wheel normally goes, a mechanism to turn the forks and bars in-line for easy stowage in a luggage rack and one fixed gear).

This allows people to take their frame to eg a station, drop the wheels in a suitable rack, board a train or bus (with frame) and then slot in two different wheels at the other end of the journey. The rolling frame would be much easier to manoeuvre/carry and the wheels themselves would be so cheap that their ubiquity would act as a big disincentive to thieves.

Every station master and bus company manager would monitor levels of their local wheels and publish the figures on a website. These would then be easily redistributed by throwing a few onto eg a bus or a train occasionally. The process might even get to be self-organising, so that wheels would be more common where demand was higher. If it took off, it would then be possible to do away with some of the normal seats on trains and allow people to secure their bike frames to the floors of carriages to sit on them instead.

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