“One of the big problems of traditional infrastructure is its singular focus on providing bicycle parking,” says Stuart, Oonee’s founder and CEO. “The focus has not been on design, placemaking, or public-space activation.” Oonee’s bike pods, which provide a...
“One of the big problems of traditional infrastructure is its singular focus on providing bicycle parking,” says Stuart, Oonee’s founder and CEO. “The focus has not been on design, placemaking, or public-space activation.”
Oonee’s bike pods, which provide a secure, enclosed spot where anywhere from 10-43 cyclists can lock up, function like conventional bike cages. But they’re also designed to meet the aesthetic and activational needs of a particular urban space, with the goal of attracting further amenities (think food trucks and bike-share stations) that would in turn attract more people. Theoretically, they could even inspire more people to start riding.
“We wanted to make something that would make people who don’t own a bike want to go out and get a bike,” says Mansylla, Oonee’s co-founder and creative director.
Mansylla previously made a name for himself designing parklets, or mini-parks in former vehicle parking spaces, in New York. He hopes to approach bike pods the same way—that is, using easy-to-assemble kitted parts that build into a sophisticated design, much like Ikea or Lego products. This helps appeal to budget-minded transportation departments, but it also allows the pods scale and adapt to different streets or cities.
“The sidewalk is populated with stuff that is stuck and old, like phone booths or newsstands,” Mansylla says. “We wanted something that was ever-changing.”
Oonee’s first bike pods are slated to appear in early April at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York. Stuart says he aims to build five to 10 prototypes this year, and that he’s close to making a deal on a second space in Manhattan. The pair is also in talks with officials in San Francisco and New Orleans.
This will be Oonee’s chance to prove itself to cities, institutions, potential sponsors, and ordinary cyclists. For now, interested riders can sign up for the pilot to gain access to the pod. Monthly memberships will cost “$10 or lower” according to Stuart. In the future, he says, he wants to integrate an app so users can register for a pod or pay on demand, with each pod knowing your bike’s location at all times.
Eventually, Stuart wants to see the pods turn into service centers where cyclists can have their bikes tuned up or repaired as they go about their day. A cyclist himself—he’s had three bikes stolen in five years—Stuart says he’ll rely on feedback about what riders want out of a new, improved way to lock up their bikes.
“We need to be engaging everyone at once,” he says. “This is very much community-driven infrastructure.”
Oh, and about that name: “Uni” (pronounced like “oonee”) is the Japanese name for sea urchin, which Mansylla learned about on a chance visit to Tokyo.
“It’s a very architectural animal and the Japanese cherish it as the most prized piece of sushi,” he says. “This outer shell protects what’s inside, and that’s what we want to do with the pod—protect one of people’s most prized possessions, in some cases their most prized possession.”
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