The Velomobile as a Vehicle for More Sustainable Transportation

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Op deze pagina kun je het eindwerk downloaden dat Frederik Van De Walle gemaakt heeft tijdens zijn studies in Stockholm als ingenieur milieu en duurzame infrastructuur (

Met het eindwerk hoopt hij een bijdrage te leveren aan het verder verspreid gebruik van geavanceerde fietstechnologie en een bredere kijk op mobiliteit. Het hoofdonderwerp is de velomobiel als een nieuw voertuigconcept, maar geeft ook een nieuwe kijk op (lig)fietsgeschiedenis en de relatie van bestaande voertuigen voor individueel transport (fiets, motorfiets en de auto) en hoe al deze dingen tesamen horen.

On this page you can download the document that Frederik Van De Walle made as his thesis work for his MSc degree in environmental engineering and sustainable infrastructure at KTH Stockholm, Sweden (

With this thesis work, he hopes to contribute to more use of advanced cycling technologies and a broader look on mobility. The main subject of the thesis is the velomobile as a new vehicle concept, but it also includes a fresh look on (recumbent)bicycle history and the relation between the existing modes of individual transportation (bicycle, motorcycle and automobile) and how all these hang together.


NEW: (7/7/2004) small compressed file for faster downloads (thanks to Jonathan Pattison): VM4SD-FVDWsm.pdf [1,25Mb]

Large file for e.g. quality printing: VM4SD-FVDW.pdf [21Mb ]

You can open the .pdf file with free software that can be downloaded here: Adobe Acrobat reader

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The Velomobile as a Vehicle for More Sustainable Transportation
Reshaping the social construction of cycling technology
by Frederik Van De Walle



Transportation has a very important influence on the future of society.

Cycling as transportation is recognised as beneficial and sustainable means of transportation and is increasingly included in transportation policies in nations around the world. Nevertheless, there is almost no future vision for technological innovation and improvement for cycling as a transportation system; cycling as transportation has remained conceptually the same for more than a century.

This paper goes through the history of cycling technology up to today from the perspective of the social construction of technology theory. This theory can help explain why certain cycling solutions developed, and why others did not. Moreover, it becomes clear that the solutions that did develop can obstruct further development.

One of the cycling technologies that has been latently present is the human-powered, weather protected 'velomobile'. Using the social construction of technology theory, an appropriate framing of the velomobile concept is proposed, giving the velomobile a place as a mode of individual transportation in our current context. A velomobile is about as different from a bicycle as, taking a parallel for motorised vehicles,an automobile is different from a motorcycle. From this frame of reference, the potential of the velomobile concept as a mode of transportation is discussed. Moreover, it is pointed out that, even if the velomobile concept does not become a widespread mode of transportation, the new understanding of individual transportation that emerges from its presence can contribute significantly to more ecologically sustainable transportation solutions. Moving away from a hierarchic ordering where one mode is 'better' than the other, to the conceptual understanding that a greater diversity in individual transportation can serve the differing transportation needs of society in a better, more ecologically sustainable way.

The concept of the velomobile can thus play an important role to offset the unsustainable transportation patterns in the post-modern world and its development as a technology of transportation is a unique opportunity to be seized.


Keywords (not included in the title): bicycle, HPV, recumbent, innovation, pedal, car, automobile, history, STS, SCOT, vehicle categories, sociotechnical frame, sociotechnical frame, technological frame.


Comments and suggestions for improvement and further initiatives are welcome!