With the increasing use of bicycles as a cheaper, Earth-friendlier mode of transportation, comes the increasing appearance of city bike lanes, storage racks and bike share programs. However, it also means the increasing incidents of bike theft. Three students from Chile hope to put an end to that problem with a new invention called Yerka, what they claim to be the world's first "unstealable bike."
Cristobal Cabello and his childhood friends Andrés Roi Eggers and Juan Jose Monsalve, all engineering students at the Adolfo Ibáñez University in Santiago, Chile have come up with a new bike design that allows the owner to lock it to a lamp post or a bike rack using the bike's own parts. The Yerka looks like any regular bicycle on the streets, but the lower tube opens in half so it can be wrapped around a pole and secured using the bike's seat post. If thieves decide to steal a Yerka, they would have to break the seat post, which renders the bike useless.
"That's why our motto is 'A bike that gets stolen is no longer a bike,'" says Cabello. "What we have here is truly an unstealable bike."
The inventors say they are currently investigating a variety of locks and may even include Bluetooth connection to allow the bike's owner to unlock the bike with a mobile device. They are also working on an open-frame bike and a bike with gears.
The Yerka is a product of the three students' personal experiences. Monsalve tells Fox News that they have all been bike enthusiasts since they were little, but Eggers recently had two of his bikes stolen within a short period of time.
"Using Andrés' experience as a starting point, we started to throw ideas to the table trying to solve this problem and finally came up with something very similar to what we have today," he says.
The team started with using PVC pipes in a prototype to demonstrate how the Yerka would work, but a PVC bike that couldn't be ridden around Santiago was unable to impress the people who saw it. A year later, the students decided to make a real bike that can make the city rounds.
The students hope to sell the Yerka for a retail price between $400 and $1,000, but not before securing a patent for the design, which they plan to license to other bicycle makers. They are also planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise $300,000 to produce the first batch ready for sale by early next year.
Critics, however, are not particularly fond of the Yerka's design, saying that the bike's lock can easily be picked as any other old lock. TreeHugger managing editor Lloyd Alter says although he thinks "the Yerka would werka," there are a number of flaws to its design.
"Remember how people used to open those ubiquitous cylinder locks with a Bic pen?" he says. "The mechanism probably weighs as much as a lock, and some people have raised questions about the rigidity of the frame. And if you ever lose the keys, you are really in trouble."
Alter also cites a commenter on bicycle site BikeRumors, who pointed out that "one good kick on that seatpost and it will be dented, making the bike unrideable for the owner as well."
Monsalve doesn't deny that they have critics, but he says the team treats criticism as something to learn from to improve their project. He also says they will soon release a video addressing the questions posed by critics.