What This Shape-Shifting Bike Can Teach the Shareable Economy

How long did you have your first bike? Since kids tend to grow a couple of inches every year, it usually isn't long before a bike that fits...

How long did you have your first bike? Since kids tend to grow a couple of inches every year, it usually isn't long before a bike that fits turns into one that doesn't. Barcelona-based designer Alex Fernandez Camps came up with a solution: a bike with a frame that can grow along with a child. The seat and handlebars are adjustable, as they would be on any bike, but the stretchable frame makes all the difference, allowing kids to get a better fit and keep their bikes twice as long as usual. It saves parents money, and helps save the energy it would take to manufacture an entirely new bike.

It's the sort of design approach that's useful not just for bicycles, but for other products. Designing the things we buy to be more adaptable—in whatever form that might take—makes it a lot more likely we'll keep them longer. But it's also important as more and more products enter the sharing economy.

This week I'll be speaking at Sustainable Brands about peer-to-peer product sharing, from bikes to cars to cameras to everything else that people are co-owning. I'm interested in how design can shape these products so people are even more likely to share. When you unlock a Zipcar with a membership card, what if the car automatically adjusted the seat, mirror, and temperature for you? What if manufacturers made products easier to customize, so someone could make something feel like their own even if they only had it temporarily? How can design help products that people never would have considered sharing in the past suddenly become shareable?

More than the latest green material or manufacturing technique, the most sustainable product is one that just sticks around longer, whether that's with one person or many. Good design can help that happen.

Images courtesy of Orbea

Want to swap tents and tools with your neighbors? Add signing up for a local product-sharing site to your to-do list.

NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

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