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Vycle, The Future of Mobility? Human Powered Vertical Transport

Vycle introduces a new form of vertical transportation which uses the body to navigate buildings. This system, which offers an efficient, light-weight, safe, sustainable and non-intrusive alternative to staircases and elevators is set to transform how people move through indoor spaces and promote better physical health.

Author: Siphilele Magagula

Image: Courtesy of Vycle

Elena Larriba, who studied in the Royal College of Art's (RCA) Innovation Design Engineering masters programme has invented the Vycle a unique human powered vertical transportation system.

How Vycle Works

Imagine the front half of a bike attached to a vertical rail and is powered by continuous cyclical movement, which encourages the user to use their whole body to give them a ‘lift’ up a building. The Vycle system is is balanced with counterweights. A gearing system with variable energy selection, similar to a bike's, allows the user to control the speed and effort required for ascending or descending, creating an inclusive and personalized experience. The system could easily replace staircases A huge improvement from carrying large grocery bags up a New York walk-up!

Video courtesy of Vycle

The design is such that it can be fitted to the side of buildings, scaffolding or cranes, making it versatile and ideal as it can be retrofitted for both permanent and temporary installations - such as a construction site. Larriba also rightly points out that "In the construction sector, around a quarter of the workforce is aged over 50. Vycle is an alternative to long ladders often used in these temporary works that can offer the user a more sustainable and safer way to navigate through scaffoldings, cranes or transmission towers."

Vycle Creates a New Form of Vertical Transportation

In recent years in a bid to make cities more sustainable and healthier, cities have encouraged more active lifestyles such as using staircases, implementing walkable streets closed off from traffic, bike lanes, rentable public bikes and jogging routes. All the above mentioned are horizontal forms of exercise, with the exception of staircases. While studying how people travel Vycle’s designer Elena Larriba noticed that in there was no equivalent to cycling in vertical transportation. She articulates "There are currently two main methods for vertical transportation that have prevailed for the last 100 years, the stairs and the lift,"

Larriba further explains that "Stairs are bulky and unattractive, especially in high rise buildings where people don't often use them, and lifts require a lot of energy in order to move one person a couple of meters up. This carves out an area of opportunity that sits between the two."

Image courtesy of Vycle

Vycle To Transform The Future of Architecture and Urban Health

If generalized, Vycle could have an important on space distribution within buildings. The space used to accommodate a lift shaft in high rise buildings could be saved by installing Vycle systems as they only require minimal square footage. In densely populated and rapidly growing cities such as those in China, where it is estimated that by 2025 the country will have built 50,000 new skyscrapers, Vycle could be used in new buildings where space is at a premium or where there is no space for a full-sized lift shaft.

Image courtesy of Vycle

This system also aligns with the Center of Urban Design and Mental Health’s Mind the Gaps Framework for better mental health in urban areas as it encourages building residents to be more active which in turn improves both mental and physical health. If adapted to both existing and future buildings - this could mean an improvement in urban health at a large scale.

The patent is still pending, however we look forward to learn more of how Vycle is transforming urban landscapes in the years to come.

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