Bicycling has seen an unprecedented rise in popularity, support, and accessibility these days, worldwide. To be sure part of this can be credited to the faltering global economy. In the US, there’s also been a willingness on the part of both federal and state government (questionably motivated Republican threats aside) to make an investment in infrastructure, to make biking safer and therefore more broadly used.
What needs to happen now is to make the bikes themselves more compelling to people. Here are three bike-related projects to encourage everyone to get out and ride:
The recent Oregon Manifest is a biannual competition among bike builders, this time with the theme “Ultimate Utility Bicycle.” While the specifics were left to the designers, the requirements were a very tall order: All bikes had to have a built in anti-theft system, fenders, lighting, ability to carry loads, and a kickstand able to hold it up, even while under load. Beyond that, all bikes had to go on a multi-terrain 50 mile ride, to prove their viability in environments beyond the well paved urban greenway.
The results were varied and impressive, with a number of innovations I hope to see in production bicycles. Examples include: an entire horizontal section of the frame available for storage in the tube. Built in USB enabled stereo system. Lockable, plug-and-play storage embedded in the frame. Retractable fenders. And just plain sexy good looks.
While we wait for these designs to make their way to the masses, two bikes are making an impact now: The Silverback and S.U.Velo.
The Silverback makes energy efficiency pleasurable, as pedaling powers not only your ride but both the built-in light and a USB charging port. This does two things: takes away the need for a rider to have to change the light batteries, and enables them to charge their phone, media player, or tablet device as they ride. In the summer, that could also mean powering your music as you ride. All of these things make riding a bike additionally beneficial to people’s lives, making them more inclined to try it or do it more regularly.
While cargo bikes have begun to pick up steam in the US as an alternative to car ownership, S.U.Velo has the potential to take the trend outside of bike culture.
Cargo bikes can carry kids, adults, groceries and anything else their owners can dream up. The beauty of cargo bikes is that they self advertise their utility: demonstrating to the masses that bikes can carry pretty much anything a car can.
If you’re unfamiliar with cargo bikes, the trailer for (R)Evolutions Per Minute is a great primer on what makes them exciting. Electric assist motors and disk brakes making hills a joy are a great start.
Readers: Have you recently begun or are you considering biking again as an adult? What tipped it for you?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.