Alternative solutions- Recycle and Bikonomic

Commuter, Concept 11

When I announced the winner of the commuter bike design competition, I mentioned that we had a few differing opinions on the jury. Those differences led to great discussions, which were the highlight of staging this competition for me personally. One juror in particular felt pretty strongly that a non-cyclist would not give up his or her car because of just the bike itself. I can’t say I disagree with that at all, but for the purposes of the competition, we chose to focus more on the design of the bicycle than to address all the other factors. A few of the entries took the bigger “lifestyle” picture into consideration though, so I want to share a couple of those now.

ReCycle was a bike sharing based concept by Nick Lesniak. I am sure that most of you are familiar with bike share programs in different parts of the world, but the social aspect of Nick’s concept is what we found interesting. Agnete (who happens to be the juror I just mentioned) listed ReCycle as her top pick and had this to say about it in her initial comment:

I was curious to see if anyone would take a more holistic approach to the problem, and this is the only entry that actually looked at the bigger story around the bike. The concept of a bike share program is not a new invention, but what I really like is the Café – the social aspect of it! It offers a bike community to someone that is not a hardcore biker-dude! It’s about the PEOPLE you meet, it becomes a social meeting place, and that would encourage a person to ride more. It’s sort of similar to the rollerblade rental shops you have in Santa Monica – it’s a hang-out place too. And the store doesn’t sell or fix bikes, it offers other stuff that average people may have more interest in. And the contestant also designed a bike – which is not earth shattering exciting, but it is a good basic bike for all ages and abilities, with the right accessories, “comfort” and very approachable.

The social motivation factor makes me think about the Strida bike as it has it’s own community, Strida Café (I believe this is an online community only?). Mark – you write about it in
your guest post – and I think you are very right about why your bike is such a success among ‘non-bikers’ – it’s the social and fun, non-sporting nature of both the bike and the community!

I think she summed up pretty well what is appealing about this concept. I had ReCycle on my top ten list as well, but I ranked it considerably lower because I was more focused on the design of the bike for this particular competition. Still, I like the idea and I certainly think it is worthy of special mention in this post. Here is what Nick had to say to describe his own concept:

In order to convert the most amount of people to using a bike, I have opted to go with a bike share program, ReCycle. This service would allow people to try biking without having to purchasing one. Also these programs are successful in Europe, so what would it take for it to be successful here? A culture wear biking isn‘t looked at as a lower class method of transit. Using the community bike as a brand and developing it further into a place to go, something to wear, and a community hub, it soon becomes a sub-culture. People who are looking to help our world and want to be an active part in our communities, the ReCycle becomes the center for local meetings. Soon the ReCyle is just a method of getting around the city to do community service. But ReCycle is the seed from which all this new environmental community consciousness blossomed from.

Another entry that took a different approach was “Bikonomic” by Kai Huppmann. Kai took an approach that people need an “additional incentive to change” and came up with a system to reward people for the trips that they chose to make by bike. The execution of this idea wasn’t as good as some of the other entries, but the idea is quite interesting. I will let Kai explain the concept in his own words:

Let’s face it: There is no new bicycle design (alone), which lets the typical car loverconvert to the faith in bike – as long as you don’t end up with a result containing fourwheels, a stereo and a big fat CO2 footprint. What we need is concept that providesan additional incentive to change.

Here is how it works:

We implement a frequent-commuter-campaign, similar to the miles-programs, many airlines offer. To participate as a commuter, you need a special mini computer, encapsulated inside the hub of the front wheel. This unit records time, distance, speed and location data whenever the bike is used. Furthermore you need an account at the associated web portal where you can upload the data recorded during biking. By evaluation of uploaded data the program credits commuter-miles to your account. With the earned miles you can later book awards.

Q: How to get the recorder?
A: Either an installation at your own bike will be made or you obtain a full commuter bike with a pre-installed one from the campaign!

Q: What does it cost?
A: Just leave a deposit!

Q: How is it financed?
A: We need sponsors interested in ecology: city, state, country, big companies, private persons!

Despite the fact that neither of these entries made it to the finalists in this competition, I think they are both interesting and worthy of discussion. These ideas alone might not be enough to convince the average non-cyclist to ride a bike, but in combination something like the ReCycle Café concept, an incentive program like Bikonomic, and an appealing bike design might convince some people to try riding. I’ll stress again the importance of addressing infrastructure issues if we really want to get the average person comfortable with the idea of cycling for transportation, but there is still more that can be done. So what do you think- can ideas like these play a role in getting people out of their cars for short trips? Additional thought and ideas are certainly welcome as well.

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11 Comments

  1. Anon February 5, 2009 at 11:54 pm -  Reply

    The last bike shop I worked in was often more of a social club than a bike shop. Multiple different organized training and touring rides started and ended there. People would stop in just to hang out or meet others because it was a “cool” place. And it was cool. The ReCycle concept seems to capture some of the bike shop hang out cultural vibe. But what made the old bike shop cool was the personalities of the people involved — the shop owners and employees, the touring and racing groups, and the friends and acquaintances and customers. The shop no longer exists, and it’s not easy to recreate that community. But it is a great and worthy idea.

  2. Ron February 6, 2009 at 1:35 am -  Reply

    James :

    I love the Recycle concept. However I can understand you were looking for design mainly and not ideas outside it. Yet, its still something that should be explored. Say that we had a franchise of a community like this in every major city, kinda like Starbucks, it’d be very cool and promoting advocacy. Can existing bike share program agencies transform themselves eventually into something of the idealistic hang out spot for cyclists?

    About Bikenomic by Kai Huppman : Note that I picked up on a similar concept last year by designer Amir Alizade. Read that story on my blog. His idea was called PedEarn (pedal earn explanded). It too had a device that logged the riders miles and awarded him some kind of financial stimulus for milestones.

    A duplicate or a legit new idea? I’ll reserve my judgements. But suffice to say, so far I’ve been seeing concepts from your competition that someone has already chosen to explore before in a strikingly similar way. Whether these designers keep themselves informed of whats going on in other parts of the world I don’t know.

  3. Conor C February 6, 2009 at 5:25 am -  Reply

    Great to see both of those ideas. And glad to see wider lifestyle and social issues being considered through design.

    There’s an interesting video on one of the existing bike sharing schemes called “Paris: Vélo Liberté”, made as part of the e squared series.

    One of the aspects the program mentions is social. Apparently the bike share racks are proving to be popular meeting points.

    e² Series – webcasts

  4. Anonymous February 9, 2009 at 6:55 pm -  Reply

    There are 2 things that occur to me with these concepts.

    Firstly, ReCycle with its ‘Grab a bike, ride to the office, park your bike’ idea. This cycle is almost certain to be interrupted by those lovable rogues who ‘Grab a bike, throw bike in river'; especially a machine that isn’t that pretty. Secondly, Bikonomic, the mini computer will be hacked or one could ramp up the commuter miles sitting in the garage with a beer whilst spinning your bike’s front wheel.

    I know I’m a cynic.

  5. James February 9, 2009 at 10:49 pm -  Reply

    Anon, sounds like a great shop that you describe. I know a few that really have built a sense of community like that too. In those cases though, bikes are the heart of that community. For something like this to be successful, it would have to go beyond that to appeal to those commuters who don’t have that same passion for the bikes themselves.

    Ron, I like the franchise idea. Regarding that PedEarn concept, it seems like a good one too. Realistically, something GPS based probably makes more sense than a device in the hub. I think the basic concept of an incentive program has been around, so I would assume these two ideas were derived independently.

    Conor C, thanks for bringing up the e squared series about the Velib program. Good point about the impromptu social aspect that is mentioned in the program.

    Anon, yeah, I suppose some people would cheat the system to get incentives, but probably not that many. I remember in the early nineties when Bicycling magazine had a commuter club. All you had to do was fill out the mileage of your commutes by bike to get rewards from the magazine (I forget the details). Obviously that would have been an easy system to cheat, but they probably assumed that most people wouldn’t. No reason to let the few bad apples spoil the whole bunch.

  6. kai1968 February 10, 2009 at 8:59 am -  Reply

    @James: Thank you for posting my idea (or someone elses… – I'll answer that later, Ron). I was pretty sure, not to win the contest (Let's face it, I'm not a designer – neither bike- nor web-) and I think the winner and also the other finalists did great jobs! I knew that I didn't really posted a design, but just an idea related to the contests topic and that's how it's treated here, so thanks again. Also thank you for the whole contest, it was a great idea a brought up a lot of other good ideas and discussions.

    @Ron: Believe it or not, I never heard about that PedEarn concept before, but yes: The same great idea ;-), and he had it earlier! And it doesn't surprise me in a world where frequent buyer, flyer, whatever programs are around, that this basic idea is adopted for other areas, commercial & non-commercial by different people at the same time.

    @Anon: Yes hacking could be possible but doesn't have to be easy. The other kind of cheating ("… sitting in the garage with a beer whilst spinning …") isn't possible since my system tracks speed + time + geo data and I think it's hard to fool that combination, as long as you don't take your bike on your pick up, driving with 25 km/h and letting your wife turn the front wheel of the bike (also with exactly 25 km/h)…

  7. Ron February 10, 2009 at 9:11 am -  Reply

    kai1968 : No charge. I have the memory of an elephant ;)

    Well, now we all know one thing – how cutthroat the competition is in the cycling sector. It amazes me.

    Anon @ 6:55pm : Hacking the computer seems like a possible scenario. I think it can be discouraged by giving people incentive for every 10 miles or so. Seriously, who is so bored to turn the wheel for that long in the garage. I’d think they would make better use of their time and minds by actually riding it. Anyway, that image brings to mind the story of this software company that agreed to pay a financial incentive to any employee for every bug they detect in their upcoming software. Overnight, an underground economy rose up, and one guy made a 1000 bucks next morning :)

  8. Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 5:57 pm -  Reply

    now we’re talking.

    the bikenomic idea reaches into the world of behavioral economics to come up with an incentive to get people on bicycles.

    this is a stand-out idea that goes much further toward addressing the issue than the other more traditional “design” based contest submissions. there is a study recently published in jama (see link) that touches upon this area, and which found that economic incentives produce significant weight loss versus a control group. the bikenomics idea is based on the same underlying concept.

    http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/300/22/2631

    great job kai1968! the presentation of your concept wasn’t as polished as the other submissions, but the idea was much more innovative!

    and i hadn’t heard about amir alizade either (imagine, there are actually people who don’t read ron’s blog! how is that possible?!)

  9. Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 6:44 pm -  Reply

    Good replies guys. And I think you’re right, I am too cynical. On reflection, these two ideas do have more merit than I first credited them with. Well done!

  10. Nick L March 3, 2009 at 9:31 am -  Reply

    Thanks for all the feedback guys. I’m glad to have stirred up some discusion here.

    Conor C: Yeah I have seen the Paris:Velo Liberte, it was a good video and it offered some helpful insight which reinforced the work I was doing.

    The ReCycle ended up becoming the WeCycle to relate itself as more a part of a community than a part of reusing plastic.

  11. Sharon Hartmann October 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm -  Reply

    I have a bicycle I want to give away for parts. Everything is good except for the back gear changer. It’s been kept out of the weather for most of its 10 yr life. Schwinn ladies frame. Do you know anyone that will take it? I live in Orlando, Fl Thanks for any help.

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