Bikecamper specially developed for homeless people, refugees and urban nomads

My name is Bas Sprakel, I am 45 years of age and live and work in Amsterdam and I am an artist.

I went to arts university in Utrecht and Melbourne but my biggest passion was traveling. So after arts university I traveled through many countries and continents in many different ways. I traveled by plane, by car, by coach, by truck, on foot, by bike and by boat. I traveled fast and comfortable, I hitchhiked on motorways and even waterways, walked barefooted for 300 miles slept in fancy hotels and under bridges.

I just loved being on the road. To me personal it is absolutely clear that we are nomads by nature. Destination is just a pointer to me, a means… being on the road is the real goal and passion to me. It inspires me and relaxes me at the same time. It is the perfect activity for reflection, for appreciating life, for seeing the world from a different pace and angle, for also seeing the human condition more clearly and understanding it better.

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I don’t travel as much as I used to do. Relationship and work prevent that a little but in my artwork there is still a lot of hints of being on the road. Last September for instance I wrote a a Zen-poem with chalk on the streets of Amsterdam, 5 kilometers in length, right through the old city, even crossing a river writing on the boat. So I still traveled, but this time really slow and on my my knees. Saw my own city from a unique angle and met a lot of people from a totally new perspective.

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Another big interest is architecture, both from the outside being surrounded by bricks, tiles, glass and concrete in the many forms and shapes and from within living in inspiring places. I always had very interesting studio’s and dwellings. I worked in a beautiful old factory with trees growing inside from the walls. I lived in castles, small damp labor houses and I built a boat (top) from waste-wood I found at construction sites.

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Those two major interests combined and finding inspiring ways to live easy led me to the idea of the Housetrike. To me it was important that is was multi-functional and practical for all most everybody who is living without a roof above their head. It didn’t need to be luxurious but it had to be a device solving their basic needs, both psychical and mentally. So it is a bed that can be locked from the inside so you sleep well and feel fresh the next day. The box has a lot of space to store a lot of stuff but is still small so it is stil light and easy to use. Also extended it is still small and therefore you can sleep anywhere you want, also in the city without being noticed that fast. It provides in a very sober way all the basic needs.

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The Housetrike is a practical solution and not so much a artistic or romantic interpretation. I lived rough and I know what is needed most and that is safety at night and being low key and above all being flexible. That provides so much peace and freedom. It is a first aid device but it can be used for a long time and in all climates. Moreover it is designed to be used in the city and at the same time you can leave the city and stay some time in nature, bringing food for weeks.

There is a lot that I can say about the Housetrike but what I like about it most is the utter simplicity. That took me quite some time. I tried a lot of other solutions It is multi-functional and at the same time still one simple clean idea and form and it really works

The next step is finding the funds to further develop the trike in polyester and than showing its usefulness by example and make a big exhibition tour trough Europe.

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38 thoughts on “HouseTrike”

  1. It’s interesting. It seems like it could also be used by microenterprises to bring things to a marketplace to sell. Is there ventilation? How does it look when it is completely closed with the sleeping person inside?

  2. I would like to have seen interior shots of the box retracted, extended, packed with belongings and ready for sleep. How do you sleep in it if it is full of belongings? Very interesting idea for anyone wishing to travel without a motor vehicle.

  3. I went from 250′ shack to mimi pop up camper, a little too tight and now into a camper van. This for me is too coffin, but younger, who knows. I don’t worry presently about being too stealth because the remote location I am at most of the time doesn’t call for it and in town I work nights so sleeping in the daytime, well any parking lot will do as long as there is nothing tossed in the front seats to say the clown is sleeping here. Its worked well for tje last couple of months. This is neat so good luck with it.

  4. GREAT IDEA !!!!!!!!!!!!! But a better option would be to put it on the back. 1) adult tricycles already exist so no special design would be needed. 2) would be more stable and easier to maneuver 3) having the compartment obstructs the person’s view 4) it is easier to pull a load than to push it (ex.: wagons, carts, trailers, etc.) Another idea: a removable bicycle trailer, a smaller version of one for a car. GREAT IDEA !!!!!!!!!!!! How can we make these available to homeless people ?!!!!!!

    • I agree that a puller would be better. Try as I might I could not see how this thing steers. What do you do to turn, get off and lift? Otherwise, nice job of construction.

      • There is a pivot where the pusher attaches to the cargo. You simply steer it.

        Go to Bing or Google, type in ‘cargo bike’, and you will see that most of the cargo bikes in the world are pusher similar to this one.

    • Bikes for carrying heavy loads have been made like this for over a century, the design works fine. A load isn’t any easier to move with a bike if it’s in the back. If you are WALKING a load, then pulling it allows you to drag it over rough surfaces easier than pushing.

      Here in Central California there are hundreds of this style bikes with people selling food, snacks, ice cream, etc. around towns.

      Go to Bing or google and type in ‘cargo bike’ and most of them from all over the world will have the cargo in front like this bike.

    • I work for a homeless shelter in Portland Oregon and I know this would be huge for our community! Especially in the cold months.

  5. Good concept. Key is to build light and still have the strength in the structure to be secure and durable.

    I would want some opening windows in it for air and cooling and to see anyone approaching. I would face one toward the bike seat and one on the front end and one on each side. They would not need to be very big. Thin Plexiglass for the window and tent screening for when open to keep insects out.

    I could see a photovoltaic panel on the flat roof to charge anything the owner has such as a cell phone, lights, and even an electric bike motor’s battery pack.

  6. ok, if you want to live in a tiny little box, I guess this is as good as any other. Unfortunately, that’s all I can think of positive to say about it. I’d rather have a tent and sleeping bag.

  7. I’m sorry if this sounds harsh but sometimes I think people just try too damn hard to make them feel better about themselves when they attempt to go out and help those less fortunate. This project, mixing a bike with a camper, is a perfect example. It’s more like a coffin on wheels. I have seen roomier and more hospitable cardboard boxes lined with garbage bags than this rig. The builder would have gained a bit more credibility with me had he taken this rig into the ghetto for a photo shoot rather than a pristine river setting. This rig would be covered in gang graffiti in no time.

    Projects like this will never help the homeless. If you don’t understand this, you don’t understand the plight of the homeless.

    • JT Croteau: I disagree. This guy designed the rig for his own use and mentioned that it could be an alternative for some homeless people. Who died and left you in charge of understanding ‘the plight of the homeless’?

      • Have you been homeless? I have. Have you worked with the homeless? I have. The title of this topic states this was specially designed for homeless people.

        Homeless people have a plethora of resources and shelters available in their community. Many choose not to use these services for a myriad of reasons. This bike camper will not help the homeless, it will only enable them to become even more complacent.

  8. JT Croteau – “Homeless have a plethora of resources and shelters available” “choose not to use these services for a myriad of reasons”.

    I am “white”, highly educated (several degrees) and knew resources (minor in City government and worked with many areas) and if I had these difficulties I can only imagine it far worse for others. I beg to differ from your response.

    Not saying it is a great solution but the shelter system at least in NYC (and where I am now with sis) is horrible and here (across to the West coast) basically full and most are on the streets. IT gets to 100 degrees here during the day – ouch! And freezing cold at nights during the winter – brrr. NO shelters and the few churches are full and a long waiting list. No home, no government aid, no phone no nothing.

    JT I lived in NYC 33 years – long story short, building fire (illegal 3,500 violations which continued with illegal renovations, which caused severe chemical injury, whereby I ended up nearly dead – ditto for many offices striping floors or renovating while people worked. Laws but hard to get anyone to enforce them (I minored in City Government as well as other areas biochemistry so on). I ended up paralytic, internal bleeding, and organ near failure – ie dying. Did copious alternatives (friend did actually I was vegetative) and had to fight FIGHT for basics like food stamps and welfare! 3 years and some how I did not qualify even though then in NYC many (I worked at City Health depart) were having babies every 3 years to keep their welfare foods stamps going while working at cash jobs.

    So that was the first shock, and then later (I lost my Masters at NYY and the 150K job I already had placed with in Health care OT (art and working with elders).

    I could never be around common household products again (perfumes, soaps so on are all made from left over sludge from oil refineries, in other words petro products and much worse (read the msds to see this) – unless free from these as in natural products.

    Then when I was about to be homeless and tried for years to find shelter another shock! Long waiting list for mostly women with children – (and in NYC a kind of reverse discrimination) and ONE can not be sick or need oxygen, filters so on. Many such as the Catholic church have beds for night but one must be on the street during the day… even in nasty cold or super hot days. Others are full of crazy people carrying knives – one person in woman shelter near where I lived (near Waldorf Astoria) was killed by a woman in the shelter with a knife. They all fear for their lives.

    I would go way uptown (a real harship as very sick still) and do the application only to be told no space (and it would kill you any way). They have quota’s to fill so reason why not telling me up front. Some bus people all day long like cattle, from horrible places (I went to visit) where one can well do what ever one does in a small open room. People smoking (I can never be around that again – I was during peoride where offices were full of smoke – one C was 2k in a 20 minute period after it was banned and it took ONE council woman to get the health department to enforce it (8 months no one else in government did anything).

    Prior to my own experience, I would see homeless (many sick due to lack of nutrition and with open sores) many after Mayor Kock dumped the institutional patients out onto the streets, doing their best to survive. Many are killed and even put on fire. NO ONE wishes to live like that, nor like tortured cattle in many of these places. Even the Catholic church near by, had them wait in long lines (snowing cold many with inappropraite clothing) for little sandwhiches. When I was talking to the what ever they are called (priest) I topple and grabbed his arm… he shrugged me off like garbage and I whispered in his ear that a little less pedophile lawsuits and they could actually do something REAL for these people rather then a token “lunch”.

    • To continue – so not sure where you live and how great they may be – but not where I was in NYC nor here. If one is on the streets and can not obtain SSD or what ever funding one can not even be in (if they list is short) subsidized housing – it becomes a vicious cycle. The only bright stop are the groups that know the ropes, and can assist then in a long haul transition.

      In rural areas, if no public transportation, then no ability to get about to learn of these resources and so on.

      • S – I fully understand and respect your post. Thanks for sharing. However, in NYC, can you imagine giving every homeless person one of these trikes? Where would they park them?

        The homeless situation, especially in America, is not an easy problem to solve. I was probably quick to react and not taking Bas’s origins into full consideration. The homeless situation in his country could be quite a bit different.

  9. I’m sure this is rain proof, even though it doesn’t look like it. how do you get in and out of this? I’m sorry to be so morbid but if it’s through the top I can only imagine horrible things being done to the occupant by terrible youth, other homeless or even police. Being trapped in there and facing tear gas, fire, flood…scary thought

  10. I have to be honest, this does not look like a very dignified solution for the homeless. I understand that it is probably weather tight, but it is like sleeping in a deep freezer (only smaller). I would think a mini pop-up camper type contraption could provide more room and less of a death-trap feel, and still be pulled behind a bike. Calling it a house is a major stretch.

    • I’ve been mulling over this design all day and find it more problematic the more I think about it. I like the idea of pulling a small trailer with a bike (or trike) more than this push design. I think I would be terribly claustrophobic in it.

      I like to hike and camp and use a two person backpack tent. I find the solo backpack tents too confining for me. Nothing like having to lay up for a whole rainy day in a tent that you can’t sit up in or move around.

      Have you ever seen the cot tent? It is a cot with a tent covering it. It keeps a person off the ground and covered from the elements. It would be easy to make or modify a bike trailer to carry it.

      Still, if homeless, I would think that basic tiny houses would suit many homeless better. Some prefer the outdoors to buildings or shelters however. There are many reasons for being homeless including mental illnesses. I applaud anyone who brings ideas to the table because each will appeal to some people.

  11. I rather like the form factor of the tadpole trike configuration with the cargo box up front, here in Chicago there are several ice cream bikes that are shaped the same way and seem rather maneuverable. However, I could see why a lot of commenters would not feel comfortable sleeping inside of something like this. It might be more useful as a strong box cargo holder to help keep a transient person’s things safe from theft and dry. It would be nice to be able to carry a tent, sleeping pad and bag, maybe a single burner stove, simple cooking equipment, a pack of your clothes and such, etc. I also really like the idea of building them with a solar panel, battery, charge controller and inverter for the more technologically advanced transient person. But yeah, would much rather sleep in a tent then a little box. But then of course, our governments would have to be decent enough to provide areas for homeless folks to camp out in.

  12. Hey, where’s the 10 clowns that fit inside? … it seems a nice thought… execution leaves a little to be desired… if I was homeless I’d be sleeping with one eye open… especially since it’s off the ground… and someone could easily drop a match in on me.. or roll me off the pier in my sleep…
    Sorry… but it seems more like something to use for delivering ice cream or supplies..

  13. Boy it looks like everyone missed the point. I read and see this as a form of travel. Not a permanent abode. I would love to have it to travel and see more of the world and life. Its not intended to be more than a resourse as I saw and read about it. Think about it as a mode of travel… does have wheels.

  14. One of the most creative minds is Paul Elkins. He has given a lot of thought to homeless/mobile/shelter and has some great videos on youtube. Just search his name and you will find them. at his website he has plans available for many of his creations which include small battery powered cars, mini boats and bikes. Definately worth having a look at.

  15. An interesting concept, but I’d be worried about attack; easy for a bunch of jerks to come along and move it or destroy it with someone inside.

    Re: the homeless: I can see where this could serve as emergency protection from the elements — better than a cardboard box — but as a more long-term solution would like to see tiny houses that meet the basic needs of people. Tiny houses with a neighborhood police presence would be safer than a homeless shelter and offer some dignity.

  16. Not sure how secure and low key this would actually be. Where I live this thing would be stolen in a flash, even if securely locked to something. If you were sleeping inside when somebody tried it there might be some trouble. If you had a few camping together it would be more secure but also more visible.

    The trouble with finding an out of the way place to stealth camp is that it also makes you vulnerable to predators. If you try to camp in a more visible area it makes you vulnerable to official harassment. It’s a fine balance finding just the right spot and odds are somebody has already claimed it and doesn’t want to share in case it attracts attention.

    Just having something that works as a shelter isn’t enough, you need safe places to put them. You are very vulnerable while sleeping and having to sleep lightly enough to be aware of possible dangers makes for poor rest.

  17. This reminds me of architect Donald MacDonald’s “City Sleeper” for the homeless, except the trike is on wheels.

    Now that some cities are providing “safe parking” programs where homeless with cars are allowed to park there during the night without police harassment, perhaps such trikes could be parked there. I think it’s a great concept, putting a structure on a bike so that is up off the ground, provides daytime storage, offers a rigid structure at night, can be locked from the inside (should have a quick-release lock), and can be moved. Perhaps a green cammouflage print would be helpful so that it’s less noticeable. Nice work.

  18. Needs more work.
    Not stable and not safe when a nasty person could roll the box off elsewhere with the sleeper tight in the small space inside or a nasty person could kick the two wood poles to drop the one end of the box.

  19. Nix Nein, No.

    If it was even remotely feasible to work for any type of housing, it would have already been done on any scale.

    The silly police are knocking at the door.

  20. I agree with others that this looks like it could be confining and it would be nice to see inside pictures. However, having lived out of my truck and camper shell before building a Tumbleweed, I think that one of the greatest challenges homeless face is societal and legal pressure. I always felt embarrassed to be seen sleeping in my car by somebody walking by, and had some difficult conversions with the police while I was parked in store lots. I think this design does a decent job of slipping “under the radar” in that it looks more like a food cart. While sleeping in a tent, teepee, or larger moveable structure would be great, our society and legal system will challenge that because it is too obvious of a sign of somebody that is homeless. Perhaps this design could be improved with some windows/ventilation and a pop-up arched roof to give more headroom.

  21. Dear Original Poster,
    & the group…

    I have been homeless here in Kansas a number of times. I have also worked with the homeless. As such, I have the experience to say that except for the hardiest and most desperate of people, this invention would not serve someone in my environment well.

    That being said, I will also mention that for a TRAVEL vehicle where a person’s nomadic lifestyle fits with the confines, and that the vehicle itself fits with the terrain, it makes a great deal of sense.

    For my own situation, however, it would be disastrously ill-advised for me to undertake even a temporary living situation – travel or otherwise – from this vehicle.

    I have Aspergers (a very mild form of Autism), PTSD, and as of 2 days ago, a divorce in the process. I am actually facing homelessness as a very real likelihood very soon. I have also been out of work for several weeks due to a knee injury, so I have been quite at the disadvantage.

    So, one thing I have been considering is the idea of obtaining a self-storage unit and placing the majority of my belongings in there – using part of my disability pay – and parking my truck at the rear of the property and using that as an option for a fair weather campground so to speak. Should I be harrassed by the owners, however, I will have to reconsider. The greatest drawback to this is that I have a companion animal, my cat, and she has been a source of extreme comfort to me to the point of if I were to lose her for any reason I don’t know what would happen to me.

    I was “promised” that my (soon to be ex-)wife was going to purchase for me a camper trailer or even a very small RV and allow me to use this as a “bug-out” room for when my anxiety and depression became too much to handle at times since relinquishing my former apartment. This didn’t take place, however, and now I have only my truck to pull a non-existent “panic room.”

    I was then offered for sale a small pull-behind flat bed trailer which she promised to purchase for me that I could use to aid in making of money by pulling loads of refuse and recyclable materials for people. However, I was attempting to also figure out how I could turn this into it’s own “Tiny Home” since I have no possibility of affording even the great Tumbleweed trailer. I had thought that if “worse comes to worst” that would be a plausible solution. Add the “tiny apartment” to the storage unit idea, and for as little as $40 a month for a 5’x10′ unit and the minimal amount of fuel I would expend gathering supplies and doing laundry and dealing with hygeine related issues, I would have an economical option. But alas, this never materialized, either.

    Now, I am at the mercy of an unknown timeframe for living in “my room” at the “house” which I no longer have the luxury of referring to as “home” where at least I do have a roof over my head and my baby girl’s head for time being. But, once the other shoe falls, it’s fallen and I’m in unknown territory once again.

    (I say unknown because this is a far different place than my previous experiences have been. In my previous location, there were a (small) number of really quit accommodating, almost “luxurious” options for those finding themselves without a safe place. Here, alas, not so much.)

    For this “trike” construct, I can see it being an ideal situation as I said for someone whose purposes are to use it as transportation primarily and as a mini-camper. Or, I would use it as a way to transport between the “Storage Unit Base Camp” and doing laundry, hygeine, and supplies gathering during the day and somewhat into the night (if it would actuate the pressure sensitive exit strip, I just thought of that!!!) so I didn’t have to use the truck’s fuel in order to get around.

    This is my vision, my experience, and my situation.

    ICT, Kansas
    “Aspie Zach”

  22. The worst thing is to read so much comments saying it would be a good thing for homeless.
    This is a box on a tricycle. To think it could be a home or a hosting for people, even in hard condition is shoking, shameful, outrageous and is just an evidence more of the disregard of the society towards the others, and not to say to see this article in the category ” humanitarian “.


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