A Quiet Revolution in Bicycles: Recapturing a Role as Utilitarian People-Movers
Dr. Giddings writes of the use of bicycles for utilitarian purposes, taking the place of the automobile, and how this phenomena is becoming increasingly relevant and popular with rising fuel prices and concern for the environment.
Two main topics are explored. One is the evolution of cargo bikes, and two, the use of electrical motor assists. I’ll be very interested to hear reader experiences and opinions on both. Especially thought provoking is the idea that using electrical motor assists may not be “pure bicycling”, and does that really matter.
Here are a couple quotes:
“Every innovation has its place and time. Some innovations happen before the market is ready for them and wither on the vine. Others miss the boat, being too late. Ross Evans’ Xtracycle was in the right place and time to help people in poorer areas of the world make more practical use of a bicycle – especially if the only alternative is traveling on foot. But in the late 1990‘s, the richer countries weren’t ready for this kind of revolution. Steeped in historically cheap oil, a suburban housing boom, and a trend towards ever-bigger, gas-guzzling SUV’s, the Xtracycle was greeted with a bit of a collective yawn in places like the USA. While it did grow a small base of dedicated followers early on, it wasn’t yet going to inject itself into the mainstream, even among most bike aficionados. At the time, the aficionados only seemed interested in the latest mountain bike suspension technology or the latest racing part from Campongolo (a high-end bicycle manufacturer) – they were not looking for a way to replace their car with a bike.”
“Another reason for slow electric bike adoption here is that many in the US have come to view bikes as purely recreational. And from the perspective of most recreational cyclists, using an electric bike would be considered “cheating.” This viewpoint has led most bike shops in the US to shun the electric bike. I never really understood that line of thinking, but it seems to go something like this: “If you don’t go out and sweat really hard, and you need help from an electric motor to get you around, you must be a bit of a wimp. And we aren’t catering to wimps.” (Or something like that.) If I used my electric bike in a bicycle race, of course it would be considered cheating. But I don’t use it for racing; I use it for everyday transportation.”