Today I dropped by the Praxis Showcase, which is a chance for first year Engineering Science students to show off their designs. I was particularly interested in two design problems having to do with bike infrastructure.
During the session that I attended, there were two groups tasked to improve the bike parking situation on a particular block of Dundas St W, between Yonge and Bay. As you can see from this street view, the north side (to the right in this street view) doesn’t have any bike parking, and the south side has one row of post and rings, which is completely inadequate.
One group proposed a denser packing of the post and rings, with the rings placed at an angle. They also proposed using an upgraded post and ring that wouldn’t be defeated by a 2×4. They also made the ring a bit smaller to decrease leverage. Here they are demonstrating that the smaller ring still works as a bike rack. I had some issues with their cost estimates, but overall a decent proposal.
They estimated that each rack would cost $250, which sounded a bit low. Curiously, this is also lower than the price listed for the RAC ARC (which is $280 each).
Two other groups tackled the general issue of making winter biking safer. One group proposed to move post and rings (and newspaper boxes) away from the vicinity of the curb so that they wouldn’t be buried by snowplows. I pointed out that merchants would not be happy with post and rings placed immediately in front of their storefronts. The other group decided that the city should use a sweeper with a rotary brush to clear the bike lanes after plowing (which wouldn’t do anything about black ice). Neither of these groups had anyone who rode their bikes in the winter.
The other project that looked like a lot of fun was raccoon proofing the green bin that is used to store compostable garbage. One group had a rotary latch that looked like it would be easily defeated by raccoons. Here is Steve Mann looking at their bin and reaching the same conclusion.
The other group had a magnetically actuated latch. You would be supplied with a plastic key to open it, and the garbage workers would have a special glove with a magnet in the palm. (sorry about the blurry picture).
Even though I had specific issues with almost all the projects, every group that I talked to was very thoughtful in the way that they justified their design decisions. Certainly they were light years ahead of where I was in first year engineering, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Update: the Star has a writeup here.
Update2: The National Post has a write up about the raccoon proof bins.