The Companion Bike Seat is a brand new, and pretty handy, extra that hooks up to your bike, allowing you to cart around, at the very least, a 200-pound passenger — or for parents a lot of kids. This week, the San Francisco-based company began its Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise just enough money to produce 1,000 companion seats.
The Companion Bike Seat costs $125 in Kickstarter guise and includes a lockable stash box, pegs, a comfy padded vinyl seat, and the tubular steel frame. While the Companion isn’t going to give you as much carrying capacity as an Xtracycle or a purpose built cargo bike, it gives you a lot more than you have now.
Bicycle sales outpaced new-car sales last year in all of the 27 member countries of the European Union, except Belgium and Luxembourg, NPR reported on Oct. 24. One reason is that car sales have slumped in the midst of the euro-zone crisis, NPR points out. But there are signs that this slump isn’t temporary. It’s a reflection, perhaps, of a larger change in how people are traveling.
There are a couple of reasons for the shift. The cost of fuel and insurance in many countries has gone up. And perhaps more importantly, cars have become less of a badge of prestige or money—at least in developed markets.
In Europe, predictably, countries hit by the economic slowdown have been the first to jump on their bikes. In Italy, in both 2011 and 2012, more bikes were sold than cars. In Spain, last year marked the first time the two-wheeled vehicles had ever outpaced cars since the country started compiling the related data.
Tagged with: Europe
Posted in Good News
Recently I was asked by a journalist to define the term mamachari. That’s a good question that left me scratching my head as mamachari isn’t easy to define in a few lines of text. First up the word mamachari is a typical Japanese mash up of the words mama, meaning mother and chari, a less polite word for bicycle.
The mamachari is a cultural icon, it’s the Japanese equivalent of the family station wagon. Its the family workhorse used on shopping runs, for riding to the local station, taking the kids to school or picking them up from sports practice. Without it families around the country would be in a right pickle.
The defining features include, a top tube bent low that is easy to step over, a shopping basket on the front, a luggage rack on the back, mudguards, chain guards, dynamo lights, an integrated lock, a bell and a hefty rear stand that keeps the bike stable and upright when parked.
Ai Weiwei, the dissident Chinese artist who is the only contemporary Chinese artist that most people in the West know of, has a thing for bicycles. He’s been going around the world creating versions ofForever Bicycles — an installation that uses lots and lots and lots of bicycles to make you feel like you’re time-traveling in bicycle space.
Tagged with: Canada
Posted in Art
For the first time on record, bicycles have outsold cars in Spain.
Higher taxes on fuel and on new cars have prompted cash-strapped Spaniards to opt for two wheels instead of four. Last year, 780,000 bicycles were sold in the country — compared to 700,000 cars. That’s due to a 4 percent jump in bike sales, and a 30 percent drop in sales of new cars.
Tagged with: Europe
Posted in Good News
Bicycles, believe it or not, killed the era of the corset. In the late 19th century, when a Scottish inventor who practiced veterinary medicine in Ireland developed the first pneumatic tire–rubber filled with compressed air, the kind we’re familiar with today–it made bikes the common man and woman’s method of transport. Women started commuting to their factory jobs on bicycles, consequently realizing they needed to breathe to do so. And thus, the death of the caged torso.
Whatever role the two-wheeled vehicle may have played in the advent of feminism, it actually arrived on the scene much earlier. Take a quick scan of the latest from the prolific Pop Chart Lab team, and it’s clear that the birth date of the bike clocks in around the early 1800s. Less clear, however, is which exact model came first. Was it the tricycle, or the Draisienne?
Sleeker and cleaner than the clunky rides of yore, the newest wave of commuter e-bikes are nearly indistinguishable from regular bicycles. Many have motors located in the hub of the rear wheel, which on the best models, can sense the pressure on your pedals and contribute assistance accordingly. A full charge at a standard wall outlet can take a rider dozens of miles at the federally mandated speed of 20 mph.
For potential riders, there are two main drawbacks: cost and weight. A nice electric bicycle tends to cost around $2,000, and to weigh roughly 50 pounds, twice as much as a normal bike. Both metrics figure to get smaller as the bikes grow more popular and technology improves.
Addressing an invite-only audience of media and industry leaders, Merkel spoke of the bicycle as a mobility solution on par with automobiles. “I believe it is just as important as the international auto trade fair that I am going to open in a few days,” Merkel said of Eurobike. “ The bicycle combines what is pleasurable and useful. It is friendly to the environment and promotes health.”
She said it is worthwhile for the country to create an atmosphere conducive to bicycle growth, including the necessary conditions for bicycles. Her government earmarked 70 million euros to build bicycle trails and set goals as part of a 2020 bicycle transportation plan. “It is not an either-or choice,” she said of bikes and other forms of transportation. “It is an integration of bicycles with all modes of travel.”
Beijing’s municipal government is urgently calling for a comeback of the old-school bicycle. In June of last year, 2,000 public bikes appeared in two downtown districts in Beijing.
The cycling scheme is intended to fill gaps in Beijing’s public transit network, reduce congestion, and improve air quality. But to any Beijinger who once saw the upgrade from bikes to cars as an iconic step-up into the middle-class ranks, this program is an ironic reminder of the country’s blind pursuit of GDP growth. It is an example of the government’s lack of foresight in dealing with the side effects of economic policies: When tax reductions and cash subsidies were issued in 2009 to stimulate automobile consumption, the government probably didn’t expect citizens to hoard 1.6 million new cars in just two years and completely clog Beijing’s roads. New regulations had to be adopted to limit the number of cars. And now, the city government is betting on the public bicycles, an increasingly popular choice of transportation in cosmopolitan cities such as Paris and New York, and in domestic cities such as Hangzhou, where 70,000 bikes are rented 260,000 times daily.
Copenhagen city planners have set out to get fully half of the citizenry to cycle by 2015 — a goal that will require an additional 55,000 people to ride rather than drive. (Encouraging cycling is also a part of official Danish health policy: The city estimates that biking already saves about $300 million annually in health costs.)
On Queen Louise’s Bridge, the city has installed a bike counter that ticks off the number of cyclists that have passed each day, giving riders a sense that they’re part of a movement, not just lost in the crowd. At many intersections, the city has installed footrests for cyclists waiting at red lights emblazoned with friendly messages like, “Hi, cyclist! Rest your foot here … and thank you for cycling in the city.” But the most innovative of all is the “bike butler” program: brightly clad city workers who tidy up the bike parking areas, and will even do minor repairs while the owners of said bikes are away.