Building bicycles for all abilities

A collaboration between RMIT and disability enterprise Brite Services, alongside regional network North Link, will manufacture a e-bike for wheelchair-bound cyclists.

RMIT students designed the bicycle, and people with disabilities will build the device, after a $300,000 grant from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was awarded to the consortium.

Brite will manufacture the bike, while giving staff the skills to build and maintain the bicycles, and also a service model for the bikes to be purchased and leased.

The team aim for the first bike to be finished by late 2019, and full production underway by mid 2020.

The idea for the bicycle came out of a real-world situation, when School of Engineering lecturer David Taylor offered weekly rides to children with special needs as part of his cycling club in Melbourne’s south.

“Bikes were donated, but since they were difficult to pedal because they were so heavy, they asked if our students could design a better bike. We came up with an idea for a bike that used electric assist pedalling – that way anyone can ride it,” said Taylor.

“The project allowed the students to gain real-world experience, which also generated meaningful employment for the disability sector that otherwise would not have materialised.”

Not only were students involved in the design, but those studying the Master of Business Administration helped to devise the business proposal.

The manufacture of the bicycles will also provide real training and employment opportunities for those with disabilities, said Brite CEO, Nick Mac Hale.

“This project was a great idea and helped those involved to learn new skills and confidence levels, so they can get that job that they want,” said Mac Hale.

Other users of the bicycles could be the elderly, with the sale of the Melbourne-made bicycles hoping to expand to more markets.