bicycle design announces contest winner

For some time now, Bicycle Design has been running a contest to design a bike for the masses. As James explained in the original announcement:

Do you have an idea for a bicycle that might persuade the average person, with no prior interest in cycling, to park the car and pedal to work? That is the main idea behind this competition. The scope is up to you- choose to come up with a whole new form factor for a pedal powered machine, or focus on specific details that you consider key to accomplishing the goal of getting the average non-cyclist to consider riding a bike for transportation. Don’t be constrained by products that are currently on the market, but do make sure that your concepts are based in reality (don’t break the laws of physics, etc) and that they are manufacturable using existing technology.

Out of the final grouping, the winning design was one designed by Torkel Dohmer:


(photo courtesy of bicycle design)

James is good enough to include some of the comments offered by his committee of judges, and closes by quoting one:

“I think we can all agree that convincing a non-biker to leave their car behind is a very complex and interesting problem to solve. There are so many levels to this that we probably haven’t even thought of, and it would take a lot of research / ethnographies to uncover all the different issues involved and to understand how to address them.”

It’s interesting: My first response to the bike is that it’s not for me. But, as suggested in the contest description, the point was not to design a better bike for cyclists. It was to design a bike that would appeal to someone who didn’t commute by bike. The challenge, then, was to integrate a lot of the things that a bike brings – pedals especially – to people without intimidating those who might feel like getting on a bike was way beyond them. From a psychological perspective, this looks more like a car, which might not be a bad thing. If one of the issues between cyclists and drivers is the argument that cyclists don’t belong on the road (though I think they do), then this design might go some way towards suggesting a more car-like shape without actually being a car. Also, if a consistent complaint of drivers is the way in which bicycles seem to jerk all about the road – though I personally love feeling nimble, quick and jumping the candlestick – this bike seems to be a ride that requires a steadier hand. Which, again, might make it more appealing to the non-biking types.

But kudos to Bicycle Design for the contest, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

UPDATE (26 january 09): Cozy Beehive has a long and thoughtful critique of the winning design. For anyone interested in the project, it’s well worth a read. You can find it here.


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