Over the past year I have contributed to the fabulous Momentum Magazine in a column called ‘Bikes + Innovation’. In this I looked at a number of areas where biking, the infrastructure, and the riders are all seeing some amazing innovations. In this post, The Future of Biking: Routes, Trikes, and Art, I have collected together 3 pieces of my writing in this area to-date. Enjoy and do share with your friends.
Routes and Infrastructure
Maybe it’s your daily commute or maybe it’s a road race or a gentle ride to meet friends across town. Whatever routes and places we choose to go on our bikes we are bound by the environments we ride in. Here then are some interesting developments in bike infrastructure and tools to help us get around.
The Iron Curtain
In Central Europe, a relatively new trail has opened that features historical landmarks along the way – The Iron Curtain Trail. The 4,225-mile (6,800 km) route runs the length of the former East/ West European division. The route combines European culture, history, and sustainable tourism. The Iron Curtain Trail zigs and zags through a variety of destination, but stays relatively flat and misses the Alps entirely. A recently released map and brochure further lay out the route and sections that look like a very cool destination for a vacation.
Crowdsourcing Bike Routes
Crowd-sourcing data related to bike routes and other issues is something that has been going on for some time, though in limited ways. Recently this method of data collection is starting to take hold with a growing number of smartphone users. The popular fitness recording app, Strava, has now created Strava Metro. Their mission is to produce state-of-the-art spatial data products and services to make cycling, running, and walking in cities better. Using Strava Metro, departments of transportation and city planners as well as advocacy groups and corporations can make informed and effective decisions when planning, maintaining, and upgrading cycling and pedestrian corridors.
Over in Berlin, and with a similar project, was the BMW Guggenheim Lab and the Dynamic Connections Map project. This was a world-first experiment to crowd-source cycling routes and create an interactive map based in the city of Berlin. This map allowed current and potential bicycle riders to assess the Berlin biking network, rate streets on how cycling friendly they are and, as a result of data processing, unlock a potential future cycle network across that (and other) cities.
Participants were asked to select a road or street by clicking on the Google-based map provided. The rider then reported on traffic volumes, vehicle speeds, number of parked cars, visibility at intersections, and topography on the selected street. Participants shared their impression of how bicycle friendly a street is and if it provided good access to a large number of destinations, for example, schools and workplaces. They then also added whether they felt safe, neutral, or stressed when cycling through intersections and when riding a bike on their selected street. The information collected was then processed using an algorithm that designated each street to be either bicycle-friendly or unfriendly. Participants, planners, policy makers, and people simply interested in cycling could filter the data to meet their own personal needs, for example streets with safe intersections.
We a seeing more protected bike lanes being introduced in North American cities to help residents get around by bike. But, these protected lanes often lose their buffer separation at intersections, reducing the comfort and safety for people riding.
What the protected bike lane needs is the protected intersection.
A proposal for the George Mason University 2014 Cameron Rian Hays Outside the Box Competition by Nick Falbo from Portland, presents a vision for a safe, clear intersection design that improves conditions for all users. The idea originates from the Netherlands and reworks the concept slightly for current North American conditions.
The design introduces refuge islands along with altered crossing position and signal timing to create a safe intersection that people of all ages and abilities would feel safe in, whether biking, driving, or walking.
You can learn more about this at protectedintersection.com
Maybe it is time for more cities to get on this and get more people on bikes?
After chatting to quite a few people on the subject of trikes it seems that these bikes often get forgotten or pushed to the side. If you thought that trikes were just for kids, our older generations, and those folk with mobility restrictions, well, I’m here to tell you that trikes are cool.
To my surprise, Trendhunter, the online publication of “cutting edge ideas” curated by 155,000 contributors, recently ran an article showcasing 19 cool-as-hell trikes. Beyond Trendhunter’s list are some pretty awesome trikes.
Kiffy – French designers Patrick Jouffret of Agency 360 and Norbert Peytour of NP Innovation have developed a configurable tricycle that lets riders get around their city, as they would with an ordinary bicycle, with a few extra features. Kiffy is more stable due to its design and has a new kind of unlocking and folding system, letting you lock half of the bike while you shop with the front carrier. It also looks awesome.
Butchers and Bicycles – From Copenhagen, a tilt-action cargo trike, called the MK1. The team set out to challenge the perception of how fun and easy riding a cargo bike could be without compromising usability. Speedy and agile, the MK1 sure is attractive. The MK1-E features a mid-drive electric assist and belt drive for minimal maintenance. A spacious front bucket has a door for little passengers and there is even a lockable glove box and integrated cup holder. The MK1 is now available in Europe and North America.
And now for something completely different. Earlier this year, the Verrado Electric Drift Trike from Local Motors in Arizona successfully raised more than twice its funding target of $20,000. Quite different from the above Kiffy and the MK1, drift trikes were pioneered in the home of bungee jumping, New Zealand, and are a little more on the extreme side of things and are for performing tricks and looking cool. The Verrado puts power into the trike so that there is little reliance in friends pulling you around thus meaning more hours of fun. Drift triking is quickly spreading to other countries including Australia, the United States, Colombia, many European nations, and elsewhere. A non-profit organization was founded in the United States in 2011, called the American Drift Trike Association, with the goal to promote the sport of drift triking.
Trikes can be fun, stylish, and even a little edgy. I may just have to snap up a Kiffy bike soon.
How Art and Cycling Intersect
The versatility and beauty of the bikes we ride – and the environments we ride in – often spur on the creative process of art and design. This month we look at how bikes and art intersect.
Art That Challenges Us
When we think of challenging art, we (or at least I) think of Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Damien Hirst, and their contemporaries. I have always loved the furniture of designer Ron Arad who has also created a new way to look at bicycle wheel construction. His “Two Nuns Bicycle” project uses wheels made of sprung steel that are a little larger than the average bike wheel but give the wheels a slight cushion effect.
That looks pretty cool, but I do wonder how it handles real roads and potholes (I guess that situation may not have been tested, but hey, it’s art!).
Ai Weiwei, the Chinese contemporary artist and activist, is well known for shaking things up. He is never scared of taking on the Chinese government on democracy and human rights and stands fast on those issues. Earlier this year, he created a monumental installation of interconnected bicycle frames in the riverside courtyard of Palazzo Franchetti in Venice.
This is the latest installation in his “Forever Bicycles” series where he grouped 1,179 stainless steel bicycle frames that together create modular layers of geometric shapes. It’s a tribute and celebration of the Forever cycle brand that has been mass-manufacturing bicycles in Shanghai since 1940. It also plays on the concept of assembling and copying in China. For me, it feels familiar and connective within a community of bike riders. You want to climb in and feel the warmth. A womb made of bicycles, if you will. Definitely visually arresting.
While we can go and see installations and one-off art bikes, often we want to own part of the art as well. I really love Thomas Yang’s prints of modern architectural landmarks made by printing with bicycle tire treads. He unites his love of cycling and creativity with his “100 copies” series. By painting the tire’s rubber with black ink, the surface becomes the brush on which intricate and complex textures can be imprinted onto the canvas. Yang has made pictures of China’s Forbidden City, London Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, and New York’s Empire State Building.
Bikes are meant for riding around on streets (well, most of them), so it seems natural to mix artistic display with this environment. The Glowing Van Gogh Bicycle Path, made of thousands of twinkling stones, is an epic display of creativity on a bike path that amazes you while you ride it. Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde has created a glow-in-the-dark cycle path illuminated with patterns based on Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “The Starry Night” as part of his Smart Highways project. The goal is to make smart roads by using light, energy, and road signs that interact with the traffic situation. Glowing Lines are lines that charge during the day and glow at night for around eight hours. The first road has been realized, and will be further launched internationally.
Monkey Light, by Monkeylectric who have had two projects successfully funded on Kickstarter and have raised over $280K, create images and animations within your bicycle wheels. Hit the streets, turn the system on and you have a light display that fills the bike wheel from both sides.
The possibilities of creating, and even being, art using your bike is limitless. Time to get creative!
Nikolas Badminton is a world-respected futurist speaker that researches, speaks, and writes about the future of work, how technology is affecting the workplace, how workers are adapting, the sharing economy, and how the world is evolving. He appears at conferences in Canada, USA, UK, and Europe. Email him to book him for your radio, TV show, or conference.