Reinventing the Wheel in Copenhagen

Cycle//World

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Depending on your interests in life when you hear someone mention the city Copenhagen you may either think of Noma and the flourishing food scene, or you may think of bicycles.

Regarded as the most cycle-friendly city in the world Copenhagen, whilst home to the world's best restaurant, is also home to a huge number of cyclists. According to the Copenhagen Bicycle Account 2012 every day 1.2 million kilometres (0.75 million miles) are cycled in the city, with 36% of all citizens commuting to work, school or university by bicycle.

So, where better to answer the question: how can you get more people to cycle?

"We thought that if we can do something to get more people to cycle [in Copenhagen], we could transmit it anywhere,” Assaf Biderman, associate director for the SENSEable City Laboratory at MIT, told the Guardian.

The team's solution is known simply as 'the Copenhagen Wheel'. So what exactly is it? In simple terms it's a back wheel equipped with an electric hybrid motor, batteries and sensors, that powers up when you need it the most.

The wheel is designed to use a kinetic energy recovery system (KERS), as seen in Formula 1 cars, which captures energy from braking. Despite a simple design it boasts the latest technology, although as the inventors admit, technology can only take you so far. Should you want the assistance on a permanent basis you would need to charge the wheel. But for those wanting the occasional boost then the energy from braking alone should be enough.

"The experience is as if the ground had shrunk underneath your feet, or that a hill disappears," says Biderman. "As you cycle, the wheel studies how your feet move. It studies your peddling and integrates itself seamlessly."

What with this being a state-of-the-art wheel it does so much more than that though. With twelve sensors to detect everything from speed, pollution, GPS and even the location of potholes, the data generated is vast and varied.

Sound too good to be true? Well, unless you have a spare £510 it sadly is too good to be true. The Copenhagen Wheel doesn’t come cheap, though compared with most electric bikes, it’s a significant discount. But look at it like this, it's probably cheaper than dinner for two at Noma, so you decide, food or an easy ride.

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