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Japanese schoolgirl aged 11 wins patent for ingenious bike parking system based on magnetic forces

Hitomi Hirabayashi came up with the idea after her own bicycle was damaged when she retrieved it from bike rack

A Japanese schoolgirl aged 11 has won a patent for a bicycle parking system which uses magnetic force to move the bikes either side of the one being parked or retrieved, thereby making the system easier and safer for people to use and preventing bikes from being damaged.

The idea came to Hitomi Hirabayashi after the basket of her own bike was damaged when she tried to pull it out of a full bike rack, reports the Nikkei Asian Review in an article about the emphasis the Japanese education system is now placing on teaching kids about intellectual property.

"The bike was damaged because I tried to move it forcefully," said Hitomi, who wondered, "Is it possible to move bikes without human power?"

The system she eventually devised harnesses magnetic forces to push aside the bike racks either side of the one where a rider is depositing or picking up their bike.

Helped by her father Toru, who just happens to be a lawyer specialising in intellectual property, she has patented the idea.

She said: "I knew there was a system that has to do with patents and that people could use it to earn money from their innovations.

“I told my parents that I wanted to obtain a patent for my bike parking idea, and they were willing to help me."

Hitomi drew up the application herself, including a clear explanation of her concept.

"I tried to give her minimum assistance," her father explained.

"I only told her how to proceed with the application process and was present when she submitted her documents."

News of her invention comes as Japan seeks to reclaim its spot as the world’s second largest producer of patents – the United States occupies the top spot – from China, including a number of initiatives aimed at teaching schoolchildren about intellectual property.

Masahiro Nishina of the country’s Intellectual Property Strategy Promotion Bureau said the aim was to "foster the abilities to create new things from the questions and challenges that emerge every day, not just offer detailed information, such as how to receive a patent," thereby “increasing the competitiveness of Japanese companies."

Hitomi’s invention isn’t the first example of innovation in bike parking we’ve seen from Japan – previously, we’ve reported on a robot-operated underground cycle parking facility in Tokyo that has to be seen to be believed. Follow the link below for the video.

> Video: Tokyo’s subterranean robot cycle parking facility

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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