Smart Bicycle Dock 

Development of a smart bicycle dock to protect personal bicycles and enable bicycle-sharing in urban environments


Project Initiation: 2016
Students: Mardu Swanepoel

The project entails the development of a smart bicycle dock that is capable of locking up and keeping safe the majority of stock bicycles, ranging from road bicycles to MTB to cross-country bicycles. The dock uses its structural design and novel locking mechanism to mechanically secure the bicycle’s frame and wheels, while additional innovative smart sensors detects any attempts of theft on the bicycle while it is locked in the Smart Dock. The Dock will also consist of machine-to-machine (M2M) capabilities in order for it to connect to the Internet of Things (IoT), enabling additional features to be added on which will be relevant to the eventual implementation of the dock. The implementation concept for the Smart Dock will include an urban environment having multiple Smart Docks throughout the area, enabling 1) any person to dock their personal bicycle in the dock and protecting it from theft during docking, and 2) to have the ability for the docks to be occupied with bicycles provided by the system client, creating a bicycle-sharing capable infrastructure with the docks installed.

Project Status

Literature study

The majority of the literature study investigating the problem identified, existing solutions and analysing possible clients and implementable areas was completed in early April. The conclusion drawn from the literature study is that cycling and bicycle-sharing is extremely beneficial for any urban environment where it is present. Cycling is seen as an extremely sustainable solution to current mobility problems experienced internationally, and the purpose of the project (to increase urban cycling) gained confidence throughout the literature study. Also, from the literature study the three main barriers against cycling and the implementation of bicycle-sharing systems in the “South African” and similar contexts was identified as 1) theft of bicycles in urban environments, 2) the cost involved in implementing bicycle-sharing or bicycle-locking infrastructure, and 3) the problems with current bicycle-sharing systems making them high-risk and difficult to install.

Research Activities

Two main research activities was executed. The first was research questionnaires that was sent to active recreational cyclist(99 responses in total) investigating their attitudes towards urban cycling, identifying their barriers towards urban cycling, and investigating their attitudes towards the proposed solution. The results was satisfactory, with a great deal of respondents also claiming that bicycle theft is a barrier for them towards urban cycling, and with almost all respondents having a positive attitude towards urban cycling and the proposed solution. The second activity involved visits to the Stellenbosch Parole Observation Centre, where individuals currently on parole and previously involved in bicycle theft, was interviewed to identify the methods and motives involved in bicycle theft.


The first frame design is complete, with the second iteration currently in manufacturing. The frame is designed to be low-cost, easily manufactured and to use only commonly available steel. A paper was also handed in at SACAM at the beginning of June, covering the frame design and optimisation up to the first prototype. The locking mechanism is a novel design that uses a gear-lock-type pin and plunger to lock the rear wheel and frame. The locking mechanism is still in the design phase and should be completed (design and first prototype) at the end of July.

Project Continuation

The work that is left for the project is to continue to refine the frame design,making it cheaper, easier to manufacture and to use less material. The locking mechanism and force bed will be completed and refined. M2M capabilities is still to be added to the dock, enabling notification and status reports of the docks occupancy and attempts of theft via the IoT. A user interface for interaction by the dock & user (locking/unlocking) is also still to be developed.

A pilot-project is planned for the project, consisting of approximately 12 docks implemented in the Stellenbosch region. This will require a final implementable dock to be ready by the end of August in order for the dock to be reproduced.