Adaptive Tandem Cycling
The Tandem Cycle Wheelchair is designed to provide an accessible cycling experience for those who use assistive devices for mobility as well as their caregivers. The project was completed as my major fourth year thesis project at Carleton University. The design process used in the development of the product included: identifying a problem or need, research, conceptual development, testing, concept refinement, computer modeling, technical drawings and specifications, and the construction of a final appearance model.
The project was awarded first place in the IDeA Ontario Universities Innovative Designs for Accessibility Competition. It was also awarded the Ideacious sponsored award at the 2012 Rocket ID show in Toronto. I was also awarded funding through the Research Education Accessibility Design (READ) institute at Carleton University to continue work on the project.
The tandem cycle offers function as a mode of transportation and use as a detachable wheelchair. This enables the users to travel by cycling, reach their destination, and use the product as a wheelchair to enter buildings such as museums, restaurants, cinemas, etc. The bicycle requires only a custom fork, and can still be used as a regular bicycle, thereby reducing cost.
Quality of life is “the degree to which a person enjoys the important possibilities of his or her life.”
Generally, there are 3 main factors that affect one’s quality of life: being, belonging, and becoming. Being active and becoming involved in sports can help any individual grow in each of these domains, but especially those with disabilities. Allowing people with disabilities to participate in sport to the best of their abilities while providing stimulation with new experiences can increase their quality of life dramatically.
This became the focus of the Paralympic group of six Carleton University Industrial Design students completing their major thesis projects. The goal was to expand recreational sport opportunities to those with disabilities.
My individual project focused on how to provide users with moderate to profound disability with a cycling experience, while also benefiting the lives of their caregivers.
The tandem cycle is aimed at disabled users who do not have the ability to independently cycle. There is a wide variety of disabilities that could contribute to this level of disability; including spina bifida, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries, sight impairment, mentally disabilities, seniors with limited mobility and more. It is also aimed at able bodied users who would like to participate in an activity with a specially abled individual, and may also like the option to use cycling for transportation.
Inspiration for the project came from a discussion with Mike and Larry McCloskey. Mike was a Canadian Olympic cyclist. He has multiple sclerosis, and uses a wheelchair. Currently, it is too difficult for Mike to use a traditional handcycle. There seemed to be an opportunity to develop something that could give a user a cycling experience, even if the participation
was more passive and assisted by a caregiver.
After further discussions and interviews with a physiotherapist, a wheelchair manufacturer, an Easter Seals Camp councilor and two wheelchair users. it was evident an opportunity existed to assist the caregivers and improve their quality of life as well. As a result, inspiration was taken from the functionality of bicycle child carriers and strollers, as well as cargo bicycles.
The next phase involved creating an in depth research report which included information on the user, disabilities, ergonomics, wheelchair equipment, market trends, cycling environments, wheelchair environments, task analysis, economics of the users, wheelchair and bicycle technology, a competitive analysis, and measures of success.
From the research report important needs and specifications were identified to be used in a design brief:
-be useful for both users for recreational and utilitarian use
-provide an efficient means of tandem cycling for one disabled and one able user
-provide an enjoyable experience and sense of participation for both users
-provide a detaching wheelchair for use indoors
-allow the disabled user to sit in a dignified, comfortable way when cycling and indoors
-have some adjustability (foot rests, hand holds, and back rest angle)
-be easy and quick to attach/detach the wheelchair
-be safe and appropriate for a city cycling environment
-be appropriately sized for indoor use
-be affordable as a secondary wheelchair (similar in cost to sport wheelchairs and hand cycles, $1500- $3,000)
-be easy to maintain and repair at local bicycle shops
-have options to add accessories to increase functionality (cargo carrying, electronic assisted bicycle)
-the wheelchair should be no larger than 0.7m wide, 1.25m long
-the chair should attach to a variety of existing bicycle models (custom fork fitting is okay)
-be as light weight as possible
-make use of traditional bicycle materials and manufacturing methods to reduce cost where appropriate
Inspiration for functionality came from several strollers, bicycle child carriers and cargo bicycles.
Using the research and deign brief conceptual development was done to come up with a variety of solutions. Sketching and small models were used to communicate the various ideas.
1. Concept one used a specially designed bicycle frame for attaching the wheelchair portion to the front. This meant that the design could be simpler, however the user had to purchase both the chair portion as well as the bicycle.
2. Concept two used a specially design attachment system to connect the redesigned wheelchair to a variety of existing bicycles.