Design With Africa: Bicycle Modules

Exhibition: Cities | October 11, 2011 by

Reflecting the African Ubuntu concept of interconnectedness, Cape Town–based industrial design firm …XYZ launched the Design With Africa initiative in 2009 to encourage dialogue between designers throughout the continent. A shared database of case studies and an open forum for debate on design as a strategic tool for development, it offers a platform for Africa’s problems to be solved in a uniquely African manner.

Based on the principle of incremental design, …XYZ developed Bicycle Modules that can be assembled in a variety of ways. Users are provided with bicycle parts that are difficult to manufacture—wheels, spokes, and frame—and complete the bicycle or cart on their own, engaging their ingenuity and skills to suit their needs. The parts can be assembled easily without special equipment and repaired using scrap metal, wood, fence wire, or other readily available materials. They lack gears and other complicated components, which eases maintenance. The modular metal pieces can be held together with roofing bolts or wire, easily accommodating reused materials. The Bicycle Modules can be converted into a tricycle or cart to transport patients to clinics or goods to market.

Early concepts resulted from a 2005 Interdesign workshop, at which sixty designers from around the world came together with experts and community members in South Africa to explore non-motorized modes of transport. The South African Bureau of Standards Design Institute then commissioned …XYZ to develop their modular bike concept. Early prototypes were field-tested in 2008 and received positive feedback from local communities. Initially developed for rural transport, the flexible design is transferable to resource-poor urban and peri-urban locations throughout Africa and beyond.

Designers: Roelf Mulder, Byron Qually, Richard Perez, and Ryan Fowler, Dot Dot Dot Ex Why Zed Design. Organizer: Design Institute, South African Bureau of Standards. Rustenburg, South Africa, 2005–present. Bicycle components, found objects and materials, sheet metal

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