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bikes for everyone?

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Originally uploaded by jctdesign.

As gas prices continue to rise, more and more people are complaining about the high cost of driving. I am definitely not one of those people. Higher gas prices are just the incentive that many people need to consider using alternative forms of transportation including, you guessed it, the bicycle. For marketing people in the bicycle industry, this a great opportunity to really push transportation oriented designs. I personally have two bikes that I use to get around, an older road bike “commuter” and, for shorter trips, a fixed gear “shopper”. Though these bikes are great for me, I realize that they are not ideal for everybody. On a recent trip to Europe, I took several pictures of average bikes like the ones seen above. These bikes with their upright riding positions, enclosed drivetrains, fenders, and front and rear racks are great shopping bikes for people of all ages. Here in America, where 90 percent of all trips are made by car (and most of those are short ones), designers have a great opportunity to change the public’s perception of the city bike. It is a hard sell in a country where bikes have traditionally been marketed only as recreational products, but now is the time to do it. The original mid 90’s design for the Specialized Globe with its nicely curved frame and internal Nexus 7 speed hub was a great example of a hip city bike. Though Specialized has a new version of the Globe in their line, it now looks a lot like any other city bike. It may still be a good bike, but it is not as sexy as the road and mountain bikes that they currently offer. A few of the European bike companies do a good job of making utility bikes seem “cool”. Bikes from Batavus, Hercules, and Schauff to name a few seem to be geared toward basic, but stylish transportation. With Interbike opening this week, I hope that some of the big American companies will be expanding their offerings of “cool bikes for getting around town”. Gas prices are expected to stay high for the foreseeable future, so I think the market for well-designed, functional bikes is going to keep growing.


  1. Michael Lacy March 16, 2007 at 7:01 pm -  Reply

    I too on a recent trip to Germany was amazed at the number of people who got from a to be on a Globe type of bike. Other than the Globe what would you suggest for a low cost city bike?

  2. Hunter Gatherer October 17, 2010 at 10:03 pm -  Reply

    I know this is an old post but if you are looking the current thinking is not why people ride it’s how they roll. If its transportation we are talking about especially in places like Minneapolis there are people riding because of many core reasons. Here are some examples. Infrastructure that has been in place since the first bicycle boom, the 1890’s. Neighborhoods that have vitality that were planned when the trolley system was expanding in the first 3 decades of the 20th century. And finally the fact is people ride in Minneapolis because we embrace the day. When the bike industry stops hibernating during the winter months there might be more of us on the road in America. But about bicycle design. Ergonomics and body mechanics can be a simple thing sometimes. I have a prototype handlebar that is getting a grass roots exposure in my city right now. Working in my garage this summer inspired me to come up with a design that is comfortable, that being the key to more cyclist. Make it comfortable for them. Varied hand positions and an upright posture keeps people coming back to riding. Kinda habit forming.

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