An entrepreneur is looking for $100K on Kickstarter to fund production of Shareroller, an ingenious, portable, snap-on electric motor for city-share bikes, like those in NYC, London, Toronto, Montreal, DC, Minneapolis, etc. The motor -- which weighs about 7 lbs and is the size of a ream of printer-paper -- clips onto the triangular docking prong on the front of the bike, and uses a retractable friction-wheel to impart energy to the bike. It also works on scooters and personal bikes, though these require a special mount.
Shareroller sports a big, powerful battery, and the inventor is alive to the possibilities here. It includes USB charge-ports for your phone and other devices, so you can charge while you ride. It also has a set of high-powered headlights. The 750W, 1hp motor has a maximum range of 12 miles at 18mph (it will go farther is you help by pedalling).
The device is reportedly ready for production. $1000 gets you one from the initial run. $1300 is full list price (more if you opt for the range-extending extra battery). They'll sell you one of their functional, pre-production prototypes for $2000, shipping as soon as the Kickstarter is fulfilled, and replaced with a production model when they are available.
The creator has a fairly impressive track record of making and shipping stuff, though, as with all Kickstarters, there is no guarantee that your money will get you anything.
I like the exercise I get from pedalling around on short-hire bikes in London. But I also like the idea of getting all the way across town in the middle of summer and arriving without being drenched in sweat. Read the rest
Clarence Eckerson made a splash with a pair of videos that documented the latent traffic-calming measures lurking in New York's streets, revealed by heavy snowfall. These "neckdowns," left behind by snowplows, provide an existence proof of the ways that changes in curbs and streets would make things safer for drivers and pedestrians.
With the current NYC snowpocalypse upon us, Eckerson is back in the streets, calling on people to document and tweet the city's ice-neckdowns, tagging them with #sneckdown (they're also documenting unplowed bike-lanes). It's a marvellous example of live, networked urban theory, and shows how people can organize to build the evidentiary basis for real change to their cities. Read the rest
The Cops in Bike Lanes tumblr is just what you'd expect: photos from around America of police cars illegally stopped in bike lanes, a practice that forces cyclists to abruptly and dangerously enter the stream of automotive traffic.
The photos are often annotated by their submitters; the commentary on the photo above notes that "There is clearly plenty of room for this van to parallel park and not obstruct the bike lane if the officer gave half a second’s thought to cyclists' safety."
Ben Goldacre and David Spiegelhalter have published a paper in the British Medical Journal called " Bicycle helmets and the law", exploring the complex epidemiological conundrum presented by research on safety and bike helmets. As Goldacre pointed out, this is a perfect teaching case about the difficulty of evaluating risk and its relationship to law and the behavior. The paper is short and very clearly written, and makes a great companion to Goldacre's excellent books, Bad Science and Bad Pharma. Read the rest
The SBUV3 is a self-balancing, motorized electric unicyle that you steer by shifting your center of gravity. They cost about $1800, feature regenerative braking, and have a top speed of 12.5mph. The steering software adapts to you (and vice-versa), fine-tuning its responsiveness based on your riding-style.
Dozens of cyclists attended a hearing on police hostility to cyclists at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last week. They told stories of undercover cops threatening to beat them up after cutting them off on their bikes; of cops refusing to take action against drivers who had attempted or threatened vehicular homicide; and of a systematic refusal to investigate cases where cyclists were injured or killed by drivers.
Before the inevitable, victim-blaming round of "but cyclists are so aggressive and horrible," please read this (tl;dr: statistical analysis of cyclist behavior does not bear out the caricature of the lunatic rider, who is significantly less common -- and less dangerous -- than the lunatic driver cohort). Read the rest
The Guardian commemorates the reissue of Isabel Marks's 1901 classic "Fancy Cycling" by publishing a sweet gallery of Edwardian ladies and gents doing bike tricks: "Marvel as these tailored tricksters demonstrate how to pick up a handkerchief without dismounting, ride backwards while seated on the handlebar, and 'tilting at the ring'"
Culture Japan Network TV shows us the underground bicycle-parking robots of Shinagawa, Tokyo. These machines ingest RFID-tagged bicycles and whisk them into their bowels and set them lovingly into huge subterranean crypts, from which they are robotically disinterred when their owners are ready to ride. Each machine holds 200 bikes. The manufacturer's representative explains that storing bikes underground protects them from "pranks" and frees up surface area for better applications, but inexplicably the area around the robo-ingesters is a blank field of paving bricks of approximately the same area that the bikes would occupy on the surface.
I’m slightly ashamed to admit that, as of mid-2013, my print reading has, on a whole, fallen into two categories. The first is comics. I’ll stubbornly argue the superiority of the physical media for sequential art for the foreseeable future. Even as a tech journalist, I’ve yet to encounter an experience compelling enough to convince me to swipe through panels (I love you, Comixology, but I’m just not ready for the commitment). The second is travel -- until the day the FCC comes to its senses, I’ll continue to shove a paperback into my carryon, between the laptop and Kindle. As of late, the latter has begun occurring with increasing frequency, an so, too, has my consumption of small, tree-based volumes. Read the rest
RIP Al Fritz, inventor of the Schwinn Sting-Ray.
For much of the 1960s and the early 1970s, no suburban streetscape would have been complete without them: A squadron of kids clutching sky-high handlebars on low-slung bikes in eye-popping, hot-rod colors.
Equipped with a curved banana seat, the Schwinn Sting-Ray was America's most popular bicycle. Its godfather, Schwinn executive Al Fritz, became known as an industry visionary for transforming a Southern California street fad into a national phenomenon.
"It looked incredibly sporty," said his son Mike Fritz, a bicycle industry consultant who lives in Newbury Park. "It gave kids too young to have a driver's license the opportunity to have the Corvette of bicycles."
Fritz, the Chicago-based Schwinn manager who heeded a salesman's tip that "something goofy is happening in California," died Tuesday in Barrington, Ill., of complications caused by a stroke, family members said. He was 88.
A team from the University of Sichuan won the Red Dot Design award for a concept design called "Lumigrid" -- a bike-light that projects a grid on the ground ahead of the rider, making terrain irregularities easy to spot:
Lumigrids can project a grid onto the ground. On a flat road surface, the grid will consist of standard squares. On a rough road surface, the grids will deform accordingly. By observing the motion and deformation of the grids, the rider can intuitively understand the landforms ahead. In addition, the luminous grids can make it easier for nearby pedestrians and vehicles to notice the bicycle, reducing the likelihood of collision.
Lumigrids can be fixed onto the bicycle’s handlebars. Its power is supplied by either an internal battery or by the rotation of the bicycle’s wheels. It has only one button so that the rider can easily use it while riding. The first press will turn on the power, the second press will change the mode of projection, and holding the button down for two seconds will turn the power off. Lumigrids has three modes with different grid sizes that can be used to adapt to different situations: normal mode (140x180mm), high-speed mode (140x260mm), and team mode (300x200mm)."
Back in November 2012, the New York Department of Transportation released a report called Measuring the Street: New Metrics for the 21st Century, which had some compelling figures on the way that local business benefits from bike-lanes, for the fairly obvious reason that cyclists find it easy to stop and shop, as compared to drivers, who are more likely to continue on to a mall with a big parking lot, or shop online.
In many ways, these data come as no surprise. We know that when towns invest in bicycle infrastructure, people will ride more — the number of people traveling by bicycle increases when there is infrastructure to make traveling by bike safe and easy.
We also know that people who travel along a street by bicycle have fewer barriers to stopping at a local business than people who travel along the same street by car. It's very easy to hop off a bicycle and find a place to secure the bike; not so with finding parking for an automobile. In fact, a recent study suggest that bicycle riders tend to spend more at local businesses over the course of a month.
This new study makes it clear: investing in bicycle improvements boosts small businesses. And what town or city doesn't want to boost activity at local businesses?