Bicycle Design Winner

Bicycle Design blog held a contest and a bent won.

torkel_rend.gif

Ridiculous! was my initial response and I asked James (publisher of the Bicycle Design blog) to explain

Only about only 13 million Americans ride bikes on a regular basis while about 160 million never ride at all. So what can the bike industry do to try and close that gap? Obviously infrastructure and advocacy issues are the biggest obstacles, but what role can the design of bicycles themselves play? The idea behind the competition was to come up with some creative concepts that might interest some of those “potential cyclists” who do not currently ride at all.

I had some talented people on the jury, so the process was a lot of fun. The designer of the winning concept, Torkel Dohmers says that he “made an emphasis on automotive qualities in the design, to attract non-previous cyclists used to cars and motorcycles.”

Here’s what our twitter peeps had to say when I noticed the design earlier this week

  • tnagpalx – you guys picked my least favorite by far. it would be better as a trike
  • alisonatintuit – I like it! Does it have a roof in case it rains? also - would it be easy to ride up hill on?
  • zackperry that reminds me of those e-bike goobs.
  • tnagpalx cargo + windshield wipers for the canopy = bike pedaled mini pickup!

Treehugger also posted on the winner.

Readers? Is this concept for goobs? Your grandma or consumers who want a pedicar? You’d like to pre-order one today or hope for another design contest soon?



26 Comments

I’d like to see it be a three-wheeler with cargo capacity. Riding to work would be difficult if you had no place to stash your briefcase/purse/bag/etc.

It’s like a miata . . . where do you put your lunch is right? If the design basis in cars, then it should have 3 if not 4 wheels.

I’m not in love with the design, but they did at least consider the cargo issue. From the linked to winner’s page, a judge’s comment:

*The presentation board could have done a better job explaining the modular cargo attachment on the rear of the frame, but overall I think this concept address the car replacement issue best of all*

@Nate

Thanks that must be the notches on the back pillars—looks like the design lacks fore/aft adjustment with seat, which means one leg length.

Seems velomobilish, and reminds me a lot of this

<a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_C1” rel=“nofollow”>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_C1</a>

I think it is a cool concept, especially with electric assist for uphills.  (looks like it weighs a ton)  I think the biggest uphill it would face is consumer acceptance.

I’d love to see velomobiles have a bigger share of the transportation marketplace, and I’m watching the development of the Glyde in particular.

I’ve grown increasingly negative on the design.

It looks like a storage nightmare.  I don’t have a garage, and I’m sure others wound find it compromising what little stall space they *do* have.

The roof is nothing less than a disaster.  Would you compromise handling and weight for the amount of raincover it provides?  You couldn’t give away an umbrella designed like it, and how can it be effective outside a certain range of wind speed and angle?

Carrying on with rain, when the streets are wet, this thing does nothing to protect from road spray, and the ‘bent position isn’t going to help.

Looks like there is some fore-aft movement possible around the BB - notice how it’s rectangular rather than round. Also suspect the seat can be raised/lowered to help adjust the fit.

The rear view mirrors look to be too high and too far back to be of much use.

The pedals look they would scrape the pavement on even the slightest of turns - not good for a design aimed at non-cyclists.

Finally, it looks like at least part of the chain is exposed. Hard to tell if it’s a chain or a belt but a belt would make far more sense for the intended audience as it’s much lower maintenance.

Careful not just buzzkill it, or pee in the punchbowl, I do appreciate the creative aesthetic, but the whole car replacement design directive is flawed. Tell me what casual, plain-clothes cyclist wants to be that low and out of sight of an SUV on their commute? Where I ride, I’m within inches of Semis everyday. And that’s where the bike industry has failed in my opinion —I’ve been writing and commenting about that a bit—in designing for safety. We need a new *modern safety bike” with crumple zones, outrigger style lights, tubeless tires, and so on. Bike safety stopped when cyclists realized, “hey two wheels of the same size are better than one big giant wheel and will prevent us from cracking our heads open.” That was called [the safety bike](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safety_bicycle). Besides bolting on reflectors and being forced into lawyer tabs on forks, tell me what the industry has done for safety lately?

To the bent point, a bike that low and in that style should have a gigantic flag or LED system on it saying, “here I am.”  I would not want to ride that through a puddle either.

On the safety angle…

Byron, you really really really need to read Tom Vanderbilt’s book _Traffic_. The fear of traffic is what leads, paradoxically, to unsafe conditions. Larger automobiles with advanced safety features make accidents more survivable for the occupants, but make conditions much more dangerous for the pedestrians and cyclists *outside* of the metal box.

Because of risk homeostasis, ABS, traction control, good suspension, great tires, electronic stability and all the other googaws just enable drivers to go faster on the same roads. The accidents still happen at about the same rate, but the faster vehicles mean those outside of the car die more often. The perceived safety benefit of larger vehicles is eliminated because they are more likely to get in accidents and more likely to kill or maim people.

The fear of traffic keeps people away from walking and cycling. There are multiple, compounding effects of this: More people driving results in more accidents, and fewer people outside of the car results in increasing disregard for them as individuals.

You know as well as anybody that the best safety comes from avoiding collisions in the first place. You write that you ride within inches of semitrucks everyday: tell me, how often have you been hit by those trucks? And what conceivable bike safety device would be effective if you did get hit?

@ Fritz,

This sounds like a healthy debate over beers .  . . Here’s an example: I stopped riding at night because I thought it was too dangerous and none of the light systems offer a crumple zone—the much-blogged *laser bike* I can’t imagine ever being allowed by transportation departments—and by that I mean, lights now are inline with a rider. So a driver sees a light under your butt and adjusts to the middle of your back, v. your shoulders, or more safely three feet away from your shoulders. Even the bar-end blinkies are inline with your shoulders. After getting buzzed enough at night, I thought we need a poseable bike lights, like one of those Black and Decker snake lights, or outrigger lights like motorcycles have. By having a light out from your body, you’ve created a zone between you and the cars.

While I understand the points of your argument, they border on the helmet-haters theory of “helmets don’t matter,” which in the 70s it was, “who needs safety belts?” And before that I guess, “what? Penny Farthings are safe, we just need helmets!”

Are you saying, bikes are safe enough? If so, that’s short-sighted and I think making a few changes and incorporating things like running lights or “run-flat” tires has the potential to impact sales.

I can’t imagine how this bike would be appealing to someone who drives a car.

I don’t think there’s much to do for “safety” once a cyclist is struck by a ton of steel traveling over 20 mph.

Safety gear (helmet), practice falling down and a lot of luck is about all you can have.

Our brains do a pretty good job of seeing, hearing and predicting potential danger from passing vehicles. Maybe a device that alerted us to impending doom would help…better yet, a device that sends a signal back to the driver to give them a warning. Send it out through satelite radio or OnStar!

Even if we had some device that alerted us or the driver when a vehicle was near or on course to crash into us we still wouldn’t be able to protect ourselves or move out of the way in time…

Since you can’t cover yourself with enough steel, styrofoam and kevlar to absorb or deflect an impact, the visibility issue is the only safety option.

So, visiblity and educating drivers is about all we cyclists have - that and (hopefully) good health/life insurance.

I think the results of the competition prove that you don’t design by comittee.  You are not going to sell anyone on ‘bents who’s not middle-aged, white, bearded and pony-tailed.  I am not even arguing merits, that’s just the way it is.

I’m not saying to eliminate safety devices, but we need to understand there are trade offs. Increased passenger safety has led to reduced safety for non motorists, in addition to dramatically higher prices, heavier vehicle weights and reduced gas mileage. I won’t trade away seat belts, safety technology and amazing suspension that I wouldn’t have dreamed of when I learned to drive in the 80s, but most people don’t understand there is a cost to reducing risk.

Safety is about risk management—are the tradeoffs worth the reduced risk? Is the idea of zero risk something that’s good for society or the individual? It appears for the most part the bike industry thinks bikes are ‘safe enough.’ You suggest that’s not the case, but recent history is littered with inventors and entrepreneurs who’ve devised improved safety devices that the market has rejected. You’ve covered some of these things in Bike Hugger, like inflatable airbag vests, improved helmets, flash flags (and flash spikes), lights out the googaw.

I’m a visibility freak: I once fashioned outrigger bike lights with PVC pipe and bolted it to the back of my bike with a line of Cateye lights. These days, my main commuter bike is equipped with three sets of red blinkies, a Lightman Xenon strobe, battery powered Christmas lights taped to the frame, a Monkey Electric light on the front tire, two white blinkies mounted on the handlebar, and a high power helmet light. I want to emulate a construction zone or maybe a crash scene so people slow down and give me plenty of wiggle room.

I’m picking up one of these tonight to review—do you me to ask for one for you?

Why do you think it’s so low?
besiedes it has the roof way up there and i think theres lights on it. why would you need a flag?

@Fritz!

yes!

Well other than not having lights, fenders, a rack or any way of carrying things it’s a great transportation bike! Makes me wonder if the designs ever rode a bike to go somewhere.

I’d also point out that things going to be a bitch to lock up at the rack.

A women is in her business pant suit—think she’s going to want to bend down and slide into that and than out? That’s the problem with the lowness that and being visible and hey, where’s the spray from water going to go?

Non-cycling commuters already view cycle commuters as a weirdo fringe.  Christening this ‘bent as the best we have to offer those non-believers seems ridiculous.
  It’s a nice academic exercise to think about how to re-invent the wheel, but let’s be realistic:  People choose not to commute by bike because of the very real infrastructure problems, both on the roads and at our workplaces.  It’s not because they lack a nifty bike.
  A contest about how to change government and employer priorities from car-focused to bike- and ped-focused might be more productive.

@ DL-

But the point is that “a woman in her business pant suit” isn’t currently going to ride a regular bike either, so evidently the bikes on the market (standard double triangle mostly of course) aren’t meeting her needs.

@Nate,

they do in Amsterdam . . .

@Brian,

Well put and we don’t want to just hate on the concept, but it does seem over intellectualized instead of solving a problem.

It DOES seem as if the largest obstacles to bicycling have little/nothing to do with the bikes themselves. However, I can’t see anything wrong with thinking of new things powered by pedals. My personal dream is to see a side by side tandem velomobile. :)

I just looked at some of the other finalists.  Some of them, one in particular, just look like “a bike.”  Maybe a low maintenance bike (belt drive, chain case), but just a bike.  You can just imagine the judges, after holding this big contest, being reluctant to say, “All these potential cyclists need is a bike, with fenders.” 
But that’s the reality, isn’t it?  Just slap some fenders on that rusty old bike in your garage and go to work.

I encourage everyone to first read the inital contest posting, and then read both posts on the Bicycle Design Blog about the winner, and maybe check Cozy Beehive, too.

I’ve already posted my thoughts there, and there’s already lots of good discussion both places about everything brought up here. Some great back-and-forth on the winning bike design, the original contest rules, assumptions made both places, the design profession, etc.

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