These new Dutch bikes truly suck.

Bike-sharing programs are big right now. Designed for quick trips with convenience in mind, bike-sharing is a fun and affordable way to get around. A Dutch designer has devised a bike kitted up with air infiltration equipment that can eat smog and spit out clean air, helping to protect the lungs of individual riders. Now he‘s looking for an army of cyclists to power them. 

Daan Roosegaarde, an inventor from the Netherlands and the designer behind the ethereal “glowing trees” project (read more about that here) and “glowing bike paths” (link here) is back at it with a new initiative that aims to not only beautify our environment, but actually clean it.

For years, his company, Studio Roosegaarde, has been incubating the Smog Free Project, a series of urban innovations that reduce airborne particulants and provide an inspirational peek into a clean future. Roosegaarde kicked off the project after he visited Beijing and saw the impacts of air pollution. “Some days I couldn’t see the other side of the street,” he told MotherBoard. Successful prototypes launched in China, Poland and the Netherlands include the Smog Free Tower and the Smog Free Ring, which provide a local solution of clean air in public spaces.

The Smog Free Bicycle is the latest addition to the portfolio, developed under an exclusive partnership with Ofo, the leading Chinese bike-sharing program Ofo which operates more than 2.2 million bikes in 43 cities. The bike draws its inspiration from the Smog Free workshop held in Beijing in 2017 which featured artist Matt Hope and Professor Yang from Tsinghua University. That event aimed to design solutions to mitigate air pollution problems in Beijing.The first prototypes launch this year. 

Tapping into smog free tech, the custom bike inhales polluted air, cleans it, and releases it locally to the cyclist who would otherwise be sucking in toxic air as she/he pedaled through a dirty city environment. It is intended to become a medium for smog free cities, generating clean air to celebrate the bicycle and making thousands of them to create an impact on the larger urban scale.

“The project is about the dream of clean air, clean water and clean energy,” he said. The de-smogging process will be powered by a combination of pedaling and a small solar panel. The result is a clean, healthy breeze blowing into cyclists’ faces. If such a program was adopted on a huge scale, the bike-mounted smog scrubbers might even have a marginal impact on improving a city’s overall air quality.

Roosegaarde said he wants to focus on China first, where the bike is supported by the Chinese Central Government as part of its war on smog, but that doesn’t mean he’s not planning out the company’s next steps. His next stop is India.

“In the process, the smog particles are compressed and they clutter together so they can’t disconnect, and once they’ve connected on a negatively charged surface they’re not fine dust anymore [because they’ve clumped together to form a larger mass], and every month or two you clean the surface,” he said.

Roosegaarde said that there has to be some sort of incentive to get people to return the bikes, because China has a problem with bike thieves. Other aspects not yet defined include price points and timelines for release.

The World Health Organization rates China as the worst country in the world for outside air pollution. More than a million of its people died prematurely in 2012 due to fumes pumped out by factories, cars, and other sources. And, according to Wikipedia, as of December 2016 roughly 1000 cities worldwide have a bike-sharing programIn New York City alone, Citi Bike – the largest such program in America – offers 12,000 bikes at 750 stations across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City. The potential to make a significant positive impact is enormous, especially when factoring in the reduction of gas-fueled vehicles as bicycles replace them. 

Studio Roosegaarde wouldn’t say whether its biking system is intended to attack smog on the city-wide scale, as it’s still a nascent idea. Right now, it seems like the technology is intended to help protect the lungs of individual riders.

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