Transition tales #22: Towards the city of the future, one pedal at a time

As an alternative to urban pollution and traffic congestion, the Dutch Studio Roosegaarde released a new design concept: the anti-smog bike.

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde together with his team shared the latest edition to Smog Free Project: the Smog Free Bicycle. Although still in a theoretical stage, the concept highlights the importance of environmental conscious design projects. New and experimental urban identities, such as the Smog Free Bicycle, are setting the tone for a series of questions on how design can anticipate the city of the future.

Since founding Studio Roosegaarde in 2007, Daan Roosegaarde has focused on social designs which explore the connection between people, space and technology. After a series of visits to Beijing, since 2013 he has been on a quest for solving the issue of urban pollution. That year marked the kickstart of his Smog Free Project with the first prototype – a Smog Free Tower, that was installed in Rotterdam in 2015 and more recently in Beijing.

The Smog Free Tower in Rotterdam ©Studio Roosegaarde

The air-purifying tower, which basically functions as a ‘vacuum cleaner’, creates a cluster of clean air in its immediate surroundings by removing particulate matter from the air. Polluted air is drawn in at the top of the seven-metre-tall ‘urban vacuum’, while purified air is released from the vents on the side.

“For me, design has never been about creating yet another chair or another table. We should use creativity to improve the way we live.” – Daan Roosegaarde, founder Studio Roosegaarde (source: The Guardian)

Daan Roosegaarde next to the Smog Free Tower in Tianjin ©Studio Roosegaarde

His newest concept, the Smog Free Bicycle, follows pretty much the same technology as the tower. The bicycles suck in the polluted air, and generate clean air around the cyclist. The concept takes Roosegaarde’s ambitions one step further in the battle for more sustainable designs, by combatting both pollution and traffic congestion in cities.

With the Smog Free Tower already installed in Beijing, Roosegaarde hopes that the bicycle concept will follow, and be incorporated in China’s growing cycling programmes. The increased interest in bike-sharing has programmes such as Mobike registering over one million users in the Beijing region.

“Of course one tower and a few bikes won’t solve China’s air pollution problem, but smog-free bikes are an exciting idea that will hopefully activate communities towards creating greener cities.” – Daan Roosegaarde, founder Studio Roosegaarde (source: The Guardian)

Roosegaarde argues that the Smog Free bicycle, along with the Smog Free Tower, are examples on how design can create an impact now, before our cities reach a critical point of habitability. With the designs still in conceptual or testing phase, the degree to which they impact the city is still debatable. Nevertheless, they show how design objects can be transformed into empowering tools for city-making, encouraging citizens to participate more actively in the debates on environmental sustainability and urban resiliency.

Feeling inspired? Discover the Smog Free Project in the video below.

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