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  • Agnieszka Warechowicz

    I can see a challenge for Berlin. There are many people who already use the "design wonder" to move around Berlin, but it is still not very safe for them on the roads. So maybe your suggestion of "rethinking a bicycle" will help?

  • What If...?

    This is a great article, thanks for sharing. Have you heard about HERObike? They're building bikes out of locally grown bamboo. Pretty cool stuff: http://herobike.org/

  • FarmerGiles

    I commuted to work seven miles away by bicycle, for 14 years, and was able to make as good time as my neighbor driving in rush hour traffic.
    The bicycle is one of the very few inventions in biofueled transportation that is several times more efficient than what the 18th century had. Its performance is as good as a horse, and the power source requires far less grain for the trip than a day's fodder for the horse.
    But I abandoned the whole idea when a motorist ran six lanes, against the light, and hit my front wheel. I realised that I cannot recommend this way of saving energy resources until bikeways are totally segregated from tons of vehicular metal.

  • SHB60

    For those interested in bicycle design, take a look at the Atomic Zombie site. This has a dozen or so bicycle and trike designs, all made from recycled bike parts. Most of the designs are pedal powered, but there are others that use batteries as a source of motive power. Very inventive stuff.

    http://www.atomiczombie.com/

    I ride a recumbent BikeE, from the mid-90s that has been modified, redesigned, hacked, whatever you want to call it.

  • Tommy Pallotta

    Hi All, Thanks for the lively discussion! I want to address the issue that seems to come up the most, that the bicycle is already perfect. I greatly admire the design and am passionate about bicycle culture, but has anyone here tried to transport two children and groceries on a bike? While the core idea of a bike is great, I do believe that our culture and needs have changed and we can expand upon the idea. If bikes are perfect and less expensive than cars, why do cars dominate our culture?

    • gragegrl

      With all due respect, I think you answered your own question but at the same time missed the answer. It is not the bicycle that needs reinventing, it's the infrastructure. Bikes are pretty perfect, cars dominate because of the infrastructure that has been set in place over the past sixty years - suburban sprawl, zoning regulations, easy and cheap access to parking, heavily subsidized roads and highways, the design of roadways, the list is long. Can I make a suggestion, please spend some time at the www.StreetsBlog.org websites - they are very well respected in the livable streets (pro-bike, pro-pedestrian) movement and cover the issues that we need to tackle to get more people out of cars.

    • BenHargrove

      When transporting more cargo than can safely fit on your back, especially little passengers, trikes are awesome, be it a family trike like Nihola or a cargo trike like Haley.

      Still, it doesn't change the main issue that the real barrier to riding any shape of energy efficient mode of transport is safety from the two-ton death machines we have to share the road with.

      As for the question of why cars dominate our culture if bikes are so great: The usual - for people who would otherwise like to ride, fear for safety is huge barrier so they hop in a car instead. Sprawl - distance, highways, and time constraints are obstacles that cars solve. For those who wouldn't ride even if it were safer, cars are easy to drive for the lazies and sheltered and temperature controlled for those seeking comfort. They should be pushed toward public transportation. Plus I believe the self centered American way plays a big role. Many people seek status and luxury, and those people will not be slummin' it on public transportation or riding a bike on the dirty streets. They should be encouraged to leave their Lexus at home and take a cab.

    • graceadams830

      I walk, but have not attempted to ride a bike for many years. I have balance issues, and I do not like being out in cold rainy weather. Maybe an adult tricycle with an all-weather cab could do the trick, if I could park it. Mostly I walk for short (up to 3 mile distances) and either bum a ride or give up and stay home for longer distances.

  • proto_kai

    That's a nice thought, but the problem remains with the infrastructure and not with the bicycle. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the bicycle, and trying to change it won't solve the problem of infrastructure, which is the barrier for most people.

    • graceadams830

      Yes, if you have to change the bicycle instead of the bike paths, you have this huge trade-off---HOW can you make it safe to ride a bicycle on a road meant for motor vehicles (mostly four-wheeled and over-powered)? Most beginners don't have the strength to peddle a tank.

  • Melissa

    Great article! I think bicycles are beautiful exemplifications of a more environmentally conscious world, and would love to see more projects encouraging the use of them.
    I'm disappointed, however, in the fact that the "Peer-to-peer bike sharing" link at the bottom of the article doesn't work. Sounds like an interesting read!

  • Adam Faja

    I agree with others who have pointed out that infrastructure, not bicycle design, is the problem. David Byrne has some good thinking on urban infrastructure and bike-sharing: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/27/opinion/sunday/this-is-how-we-ride.html

    As a thought exercise though, let's consider the Segway as an answer the original premise of a redesigned bicycle. It serves many of the same goals as a bike: short to medium-distance car-less transportion utilizing existing infrastructure at a faster-than-walking pace. It also has the additional benefit of being powered for those who can't be bothered to pedal a bike, and effortlessly climbing steep terrain. Circa 2001 when it was still a mystery machine called Ginger, it was promised to redefine personal transportation and guide new city infrastructure. Despite the impressive technology, that didn't happen for several reasons, including the cost of the machine and the how silly you look riding one ;) It also doesn't solve the bike problems of weather and safety. It's not speedy or secure enough to ride with car traffic, and it's a bit fast and obnoxious to share the sidewalk with pedestrians.

    This points back to infrastructure: Dedicated lanes for personal transportation devices, be they Segways, Gopeds, Razor scooters, rocket-skates, or the humble and efficient bicycle.

  • hellcat

    Bicycles increase your carbon foot-print by making you work harder (thus causing you to eat more). The real solution to the infrastructure problem is to eliminate it: i.e. just stay where you are. We should just live, work, eat, etc. in one place and not move around too much. If no one goes anywhere, then there is no need for infrastructure, and no need for all the energy used for transportation. This is the ideal. Obviously we can't get there in one step. But imagine everyone jacked into a global virtual-reality system that is plugged into their visual cortex. This would allow people to travel, work, play etc. without actually using much energy. Either that or we can just live in huts and grow our own food like Mahatma Gandhi. Either way our footprint is minimized. Personally, I'd rather plug into the system.

    • FarmerGiles

      I question the proposition "work harder (thus causing you to eat more)" Lots of Americans manage to eat far too much because of their lack of exercise. But in any case, you are right about the absurdity of vast numbers of people in far too many single-passenger vehicles all going in the same direction at a snail's pace, or anyway little faster than the 15 mph average I was able to achieve in my 40's. Telecommuting does indeed seem the way to go. And the solution to the unemployment problem is a shorter work week, which would cut total travel if leisure time were spent at home, or in the garden, or for that matter in the pub.

    • durrett

      I get where you are heading, hellcat - the goal is to be there, not to get there; but, to be in one place and not move around too much has unintended consequences for health and social interaction. Walkability, bike-ability and transit for moving groups of people from and to regional places is, IMHO, the target. Worrying about having to eat for the energy to ride a bike is like...I don't know what to say...really out there?

    • paulebert

      I agree that eliminating infrastructure can be beneficial, but feel that the main reason this is true is the redundancy of it all. Why should I light and heat both my home and my place of work? This, in addition to the energy used in transportation as you mention. I doubt, however, that bike riding has a measurable, much less significant, impact on carbon foot-print. On the other hand, the electronic infrastructure needed for a global virtual-reality system would require large amounts of energy as the current server warehouses that power the cloud demonstrate. This is not to say that these are bad ideas, rather that complete energy demands must be considered to find the optimal solutions.

      • FarmerGiles

        I suspect that the "current server warehouses that power the cloud" consume a trifling amount of energy compared with just the air conditioning necessary to serve the same number of people in offices. Does anyone have actual data?

    • ecomuse

      "But imagine everyone jacked into a global virtual-reality system that is plugged into their visual cortex."

      You're kidding, right? You know that you'd still be emitting carbon just by breathing, right? In fact, even when you're dead you're still emitting carbon. CO2 is part of nature, you know, we're not trying to eliminate it, just trying to be more proportionate in how much of it we're putting in the atmosphere. Nothing wrong with a little heavy breathing after a bike ride or walk. Burning fossil fuel that it took millions of years to form to drive 4000 pounds of steel a mile to get to the grocery store, on the other hand, now that's a bad idea.

  • ecomuse

    I do have to agree with other commenters that this article doesn't make much sense. Why try to literally reinvent the wheel, when there's no problem with the bicycle as it is. There are already so many different kinds of bikes, something for everyone. Even electric bikes, for those who have a hard time doing hills. While you're saying that infrastructure is not the problem, the rest of this article shows exactly that infrastructure IS the problem. The reason it's great and easy to ride a bike in Amsterdam is because they invested so much in creating an infrastructure where it's safe to ride, and the reason LA is such a harsh place for bikes is because they spent all their money to build a car infrastructure. It's pretty simple and the article even says it, but then the author arrives at a completely illogical conclusion that we have to start tinkering with bikes instead of cities. Give us at least one example of the kind of bike that would shape a city and change automobile infrastructure to show us what exactly you mean. You link to cardboard bicycle and bike sharing articles, but I don't see how that is going to do anything to reduce the number of cars in the city.

  • Dasien

    Just playing devil's advocate. "Making the city increasingly more friendly to bikes and more difficult and costly by car". As an owner of three bikes meant for three different types of terrain/use, I enjoy using each whenever I can. It might be more effective however, to focus on the benefits and beauty of cycling than to include language some might consider to be coercive. Just saying that it might distract from what the ultimate goal of the article is. Unless forced cycling is the goal and I missed the point.

  • noah mabon

    The bamboo bicycle, that was featured on GOOD too! Although most bicycles retain the same design, as stated in the article, there are many ways that bicycles could be more efficient. I totally dig it!

  • Maniceye

    I like the idea, but I think you have this 'cart before horse', so to speak. The problem isn't the bicycle - it's the roads/cycleways, etc. The infrastructure is currently too expensive to build, requiring skilled specialists. Has anyone considered that the requirements for a cycleway may be less stringent from an engineering standpoint than that for a road designed for cars? Could be we build them cheaper? And if so, how>

    • FarmerGiles

      Excellent point. I have read that a great many highways are designed for passenger vehicles, and that the heavy trucks create a serious toll of destruction, out of proportion to their numbers, because the loading under their wheels flexes the roadway unduly.
      So a bikeway could be built lighter (I'd like to see it wider) than is needed for a roadway. But bikeways need to be uninterrupted.

    • noah mabon

      Yeah, there was an article about the public and private benefits of construction, and maintenance of cycling corridors here on GOOD too. I may have the article in an email if you'd want to read it.

  • 50crowley

    The design of the bicycle has nothing to do with the infrastructural problems affecting modern cities. Mr. Pallotta specifies a thesis, but then doesn't make any effort to address it or even explain it! This is terrible journalism.
    Never-mind the fact that the main point of this article is a non-sequitur. It is little better than the following proposition:

    "People don't like to drink water because it doesn't taste like soda... Let's reinvent the cup."

  • Rachel Biel

    My van quit on me last April needing a fuel pump that would cost me $500. I just turned 50, gained 40 lbs in the last couple of years and thought, "Time to get on that saddle again!" So, I bought a basic bike for $50. I really didn't know if I could physically do it, but I did, even with weeks of over 100 degree weather! I thought that for sure, I would lose that excess weight. Not one pound! I did get stronger though.

    There was one terrifying episode... I live in a flat town in Kentucky and almost everything I need is within 2 miles. But, the Mall is four miles away and right by the expressway. I ran out of printer ink and the only place to get it was at that mall. Hmmm... could I do it (4 miles there). I was fine until I got close to the expressway. There were no crossings for bikes or pedestrians. Cars were whizzing by and it was absolutely horrible. I was so frightened that I hired a cab to take me and the bike home.

    So, most of the time, it was good. I experienced the city in a new way, people were friendly, but there were also a lot of places where there was nowhere to lock up the bike. There is a bike club here, but the city is not designed for it.

    I did get my car fixed and am using it through the winter, but look forward to getting on it again. I don't know what can change our culture.... Even though I have a lot of goodness in my heart, I'm basically lazy, sitting in front of a computer all day, and until I was forced into activity, I wasn't doing it of my own free will. I definitely don't think it's a bike design flaw. It's us and it's the infrastructure of us.

    I've got some fun pictures on my blog if anyone wants to see more of my story: http://www.rayela.com/back-on-the-saddle-again/

    • Alex Sprunt

      Wow ... there are so many good points you raised Rachel and I agree ... many areas/cities are NOT bike or pedestrian friendly and that is a design omission. I was once Chairman of the Road Safety Risk Branch here in Victoria, Australia and gave a talk one night to a group of road engineers. I started off by saying we have designed a road transport system that kills 2000 people a year (Australia) and there was silence. I feel the future holds many exciting and amazing new systems if we are willing to let go of the old outdated ones that don't serve us any more. After an architect friend of mine died of a heart attack aged 44 I changed my direction Rachel and became a health & lifestyle coach. I would be delighted to help you shed those 40lbs easily ... my wife Helen lost 30lbs in 10 weeks and now in her early 50's she looks and feels great, her basal metabolic age is around 16.

      You can find us at http://australian-weightloss.com and one on one free coaching is available anywhere in the world.

      • FarmerGiles

        One of the old outdated ideas that does a very great deal of harm is the curse that God put upon Adam. "By the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread". From this, the ruling classes have historically espoused for the lower classes the proposition that work is virtuous, which now emerges in political promises that this, that, or the other scheme is good becauseit provides employment.
        There are two interpretations for the virtue of the Industrial Revolution.
        The first is that it can make leisure possible for the whole of society.
        The second is that it can provide a small proportion of the society with immense wealth.
        We need to adopt the first one.

  • Adam Kirby

    I don't think redesigning the bicycle will make for change. Provision of infrastructure, especially safe cycling space is critical. I have just cycled about 20km to work mostly through a rural, hilly area. The side of the road available for cycling was rough, narrow and sometimes gravelly, which made it dangerous, especially as it was fairly busy. We need smooth tarmac and a metre width of dedicated space. In the long run encouragement of sysling will reduce the cost of road maintenance and be to everyone's advantage.

    • noah mabon

      Dude, I'm in the exact same boat, averaging the same distance, traffic, and geography. The attitude towards bicyclists is absolutely horrible, and as a cyclist, I've tried to change people's perspectives by showing them that yes, you can live a better life, without a car.

  • BenHargrove

    What type of redesign of the bicycle could possibly overcome infrastructure issues? There is nothing wrong with the bike as is. Agreed with Francesco, it's a tried and true design that has been around so long because it works.

    Beyond the basic design, people are always trying to make it better and in the past 120 years, relatively unchanged is not the descriptor I would use. Without looking under the hood, you could say the same about cars. Manufacturers are constantly trying to upgrade, improve, and create something unique to sell over their competitors. From a basic no frills to the latest redesigned hubs with a billion extra gears for speeds you'll never use to something new with practical conveniences like a folding bike, there is something out there for everybody.

    It's a huge uphill battle, but fixing the infrastructure to allow and encourage safe riding and enforcing policy to deal with reckless drivers is really what needs to be done. Short of inventing an invisible forcefield, there is no novel cycle design that will eliminate the dangers of car-centric infrastructure.

  • Richard Starr

    The bicycle is like a sports car. It has limited seating and carrying power,
    but generally has good speed.

    A trike has greater carrying capacity, more stable, somewhat slower.
    The thing is, it's ultimately only useful if you have a safe place to park it
    and if there is a store within a reasonable distance. And then there is the
    issue of dealing with the weather and other drivers.

  • rhapsodyindrew

    The basic design of steel-frame bikes was perfected almost a hundred years ago. The Dutch have already developed a whole raft of commuter-friendly accoutrements. The machine is ready to roll; our task, rather, is to reshape public perceptions of cycling and driving, and to adjust the system of incentives and disincentives that have favored driving since the 1930s. Let's hack roads, and ad campaigns, and bike parking facilities. The bike is fine.

  • esc

    The bike isn't the issue - it is all about infrastructure, public attitude and policy. Robert Pucher of Rutgers has done extensive work studying Holland, Denmark, and Germany. Each took a different path.

    We could make great prove press here, but I doubt Americans have the will outside of a few cities.

  • mrs.merkin

    For ideas on how and why it can and does work well, take a look at my city, Portland, Oregon. Everyone rides bikes here year-round.

    But please, just don't move here.

  • noisyblocks

    First redesign the bicyclist; modern homo sapiens just hates to exert itself.

  • user1

    Please fixy linky.

    I've been a carless rider for well over five years now. It's amazing what a benefit it has been to go carless. OK it does help to live in a warmer climate, Long Beach, CA. Also having good public transportation around sure helps. Just wish there were more riders on the road. Would make everyone safer, probably even the drivers.

  • barbell

    Perhaps we grown up designers should consider keeping our training wheels on? Or at least the number of skinned knees or otherwise bumps, bruises and red lights don't have to take feet off the petals the design helped? LOL L )'s

  • quikboy

    "let's start hacking."

    You are aware of what hacking means right? Unless you are planning to chop down your bike or break into your bike from a remote location, I don't think you're hacking. I think you meant redesigning.

  • Deborah Merriam

    Peer-to-peer bike sharing link is broken! Please fix. =)

    I'd suggest that one of the biggest challenges in automobile-dominated landscapes is making bicycle users feel safe - hence the push for physically separated bike lanes. How could a redesign of the bicycle accomplish this, without losing the fun of bicycling or recreating the problems of automotive use? Ambitious!

    • peter.d.mare

      Yes, there might be a few car drivers who cannot drive or who are unsafe. Are all cyclists safe though? Is there space for dedicated bike lanes? Like it or not, emancipated chicks like you probably like to be driven to and from the restaurant from time to time by a guy who has had to pay for a car. Right? Considering the amount of cars out there,... do we have room for bikes? Biking in minus temp. and snowy weather do not make sense, also. If a bike lane can be made and it does not compromise on cars, then okay. Tough call.

      • Deborah Merriam

        Let's ignore your ridiculous sexism (oh PLEASE) and talk facts. Reality check: most bicyclists (and pedestrians) are also car users. Nobody asking for bike infrastructure is seriously suggesting tearing up all the freeways. This is a conversation about making sure that everyone is safe. Reality check: people in the frozen wastes of Canada and Northern Europe still ride their bicycles in winter. The technology is called studded tires and a parka. Reality check: you can park 20 bicycles in a single-car parking space. If safe separated infrastructure can be created, why not do it? I've seen proposals locally that involve adding a parking garage for more vehicles than can be currently parked, to allow on-street parking to be turned into a separated on-street bike lane. There are ways to add infrastructure and create complete streets that can make everybody safer and happier. It shouldn't be a tough call.

        • peter.d.mare

          You make a few good points, but the parka and the studded bits are best reserved for bedroom antics, not minus 30 weather. :)( You talk about "physically separated bike lanes" in your original comment. I shall not discuss your other points. Sexist comment? Reality check: Many (all) women, still expect men to be driven around on a date. No? Show me a feminist organization against this and I will buy into the movement. But, we digress!

  • Francesco Bertelli

    I think the tile give us a wrong approach.
    The bicycle as today is perfect, not improvable; is like an umbrella or an italian coffe machine "moka."
    maybe the right question would be "what can be the future mean of transportation that is lightweight, easy to use, recyclable, low maintenance, easy to use either in the city and off-road?"
    does it have to have wheels at all? two wheels? three?

    all the other speculations about the materials, shape, etc. have proven to generate ugly results. Just keep it simple or build somethng else.

    Francesco — founder of BertelliBici.com