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GM/ Segway P.U.M.A.

Concept, Electric bike 53 454

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  1. gsport george April 8, 2009 at 6:21 pm -  Reply

    woot woot first and all that…

    I think it is great, but I dont think it belongs in the already over-crowded and underfunded bike-lanes. When it has to swing out into “proper” traffic to clear the delivery vans parked in the cycle lane, then it will need more space than a bike so will probably have to wait for a gap in non-moving traffic… thus bringing congestion with it..

    If it can go 35mph and weighs 300lbs it can mix it in traffic like we have to when the bike lane (inevitably) ends…

    I do like it though, just not the way that it is likely to be marginalised by the car/oil lobby…

  2. nelsong April 8, 2009 at 6:24 pm -  Reply

    I had the same reaction to a lot of those same “my fixie is better” posts yesterday. I for one would much rather share the road with a swarm of these going 30mph rather than an Escalade doing 50.

  3. Yokota Fritz April 8, 2009 at 6:29 pm -  Reply

    I put off mentioning the PUMA because I wanted to put some thought into it instead of just reacting like most bloggers did. I’m glad you did the thinking for me, James 😉

  4. Matt April 8, 2009 at 6:32 pm -  Reply

    Wonderful post. Those were my feelings reading reactions from cycling sites yesterday as well.

  5. EcoVelo April 8, 2009 at 6:49 pm -  Reply

    I was one of those bloggers that initially (over)reacted when I saw the PUMA and wrote a quick rant as I was leaving work. I had a chance to think about it during my commute and by the time I arrived home I backed off a bit and decided to unpublish my post. Now I’m pretty much in agreement with your position. I still think it’s an incredibly inelegant vehicle, but it beats the heck out of an SUV.


  6. Pat April 8, 2009 at 7:13 pm -  Reply

    I commute on a bike, I mountain bike, and I road bike on a regular basis. I’m also a fan of technology. I personally would probably never buy one of these, but just like you said, that doesn’t mean that I have to slam it as a horrible idea. It’s a step in a good (not necessarily right) direction.

    I’m not a fan of fixies. That is practically the bicycle stoneage. I like my ultegra shifting, hydraulic brakes, and air sprung rear shock with lock out (on their respective bikes obviously). I see no appeal in a fixie, but I don’t wear really tight pants. Maybe that’s my problem.

  7. Anonymous April 8, 2009 at 8:34 pm -  Reply

    While I’ll grant that the PUMA is better than an SUV, I think that’s faint praise at best. If we’re going to have a hope of breaking the stranglehold that cars have on society, we’ve got to do a lot better than “well, it’s not a car, is it? at least there’s that!” That, I think, is the real source of the ridicule: the PUMA seems to be what passes, in the mind of General Motors for an alternative to the SUV. The PUMA looks like what you’d get if you asked an SUV fan what those lefty ecomentalist tree-hugging hippies want to force us all to drive — a comical parody of sustainable transport.

    The PUMA is just stunningly impractical. Overengineered along one axis (it balances like a segway just because it can, not because there’s any reason for it to do so), it still lacks even the most basic nods to functionality (sure, you can put the groceries on the seat next to you. and then they’ll fall out the side.) If we’re going to need to reengineer our cities to support our new mode of transport, shouldn’t that transport at least meet us halfway? This thing isn’t a “small urban vehicle”, it’s a Smart Car that’s had its ass lopped off by a band saw, and for no good reason.

    I don’t expect my mother — or even my brother — to ride a bicycle to work, much less a fixie to the grocer’s. But if they’re going to give up their sport utility vehicles, they’re going to need something that could serve some real purpose beyond providing a physical expression of GM’s ineptitude and failure to get it.

    … and that’s my little rant about the PUMA.

  8. steve April 8, 2009 at 9:23 pm -  Reply

    Many microvehicles have been designed and none are particularly good matches to regular roads. If a city decides to promote them it is likely that life would get much better for cyclists.

    I am bothered by the PUMA as there are much cheaper ways to get similar levels of efficiency. But, if it starts a serious dialog and leads to the creation of city zones where “normal” cars are prohibited or severally limited in favor of microvehicles, bikes and walking, I’m all for it.

  9. Anonymous April 8, 2009 at 10:45 pm -  Reply

    So this is what GM has been doing with taxpayer bailout money? The Segway PT is an unprofitable machine (source: Wikipedia) that has a very limited legal use on sidewalks and roadways. And no wonder, have you seen the YouTube video of the Segway on ice? You want your grandma sliding out in one of these things? Sure the PUMA is a neat idea, but it’s also an obvious distraction from GM’s real financial and management problems, and it is as horribly impractical as the original Segway. There are good alternative transportation ideas out there, especially mass transit, (like GM systematically and illegally destroyed in Los Angeles in the 1930s and 1940’s) but this PUMA is not one of them.

  10. Anonymous April 8, 2009 at 11:15 pm -  Reply

    Wow. Emotions run high around this thing. Not mine though. I can’t find any reason to object to the puma. It seems like a fancy pants scooter. Big damn deal. I won’t buy one, but so what. There are lots of products out there that I don’t buy.

  11. Murilo Marin April 8, 2009 at 11:31 pm -  Reply

    yeah i really agree with the point of view about the safety of this vehicle.
    The first thing i saw that doenst seem to match on the street riding scene was the vulnerabily of the driver.
    But we dont have to think about this so much in these “real stagnation of transit” days.

    sorry my terrible english hahaha i try my best

  12. Eric April 8, 2009 at 11:37 pm -  Reply

    This vehicle is pure genuis. It offers personal local transportation with weather protection and grocery-hauling capability. My problem, however, is the archaic legislation that limits these things to neighborhood electric vehicle status, essentially barring them from the majority of roads. This is a major urban planning problem that needs to be addressed before vehicles like this take off. Now cut the top speed to 20mph and give it a set of pedals, and it can go anywhere a bicycle can go! I know this is a bicycle blog, but kudos for putting this article up and starting a really interesting discussion…It’s worth talking about.

  13. GeekGuyAndy April 8, 2009 at 11:51 pm -  Reply

    There is one major problem with this…

    No one will want to commute 10 or more miles in a vehicle like this, I assume. So who is using it? Where does an apartment dweller keep this 300lb vehicle, and where can they charge it?

  14. kind1 April 9, 2009 at 12:36 am -  Reply

    Elitist jerks? who are you talking about James? Bike suppliers, marketers, websites, magazines, retailers or riders? 😉

    My question is, is the initial reaction from our community due to fear? Fear that the bike may get trumped and not be the solution we all hope it to be?

    I always get weary when “we” trumpet as the bike as the last savior of all things transportation related. The reality is that bike sales plummeted when gas hit 4 bones and is not a practical solution for a good chunck of the US population for the foreseeable future (for lots of reasons, some you hit on this site).

    Efficiency improvements on current popular modes, starting with the car, is where most people will turn in the long run – it even happens in cycling centric countries in europe. While some bike growth will be inevitable here, smaller, efficient cars/goofy contraptions is where this will be headed.

    And I say: cool. Lets embrace any alternative to what we have now.

  15. Joseph April 9, 2009 at 12:38 am -  Reply

    In many ways, the PUMA should is a kin to neighborhood electric vehicles — just smaller, and much more manueverable.

    You can park about 6 of these PUMA’s in the same space used to park a full-size car or SUV.

    Wouldn’t it be great if people would drive this vehicle a couple of miles to their park-n-ride, and then take public transit into downtown?

    There are people that can’t or won’t ride a bike (or scooter), even if it is motor driven. I would rather they rode this or a Segway, than drive a full size car around the neighborhood.

  16. Andrew April 9, 2009 at 12:50 am -  Reply

    I love riding bikes, and I have one that I think is very practical for me for running errands, commuting, etc. However, I live in a hilly city and I can see how a lot of people wouldn’t like using it to haul a load of groceries, even in baskets, up a hill. I think it’s useless to criticize others for making different choices from me – if as a culture we disapprove of their choices, offering a viable alternative, which this sounds like it could be, is much better than getting into some kind of useless argument.

  17. Human Amplifier April 9, 2009 at 3:43 am -  Reply

    Thanks James – not seen this, thanks for sharing. A fascinating and useful tool for transport options, like an electric smart car but much smaller – kudos !

    I too am passionate about cycling’s benefits, but I can see a clear role for this type of vehical. It is a positive affirmation that engineering and design will ultimately take society forward.

    Your discussion about the ‘knee-jerk’ negative reactions from some traditionalists (and sadly cyclists) is spot on. Well said, Sir !

    I know people tend to avoid change, but when they also get aggressive towards new ideas, or in this case products it is sad.

  18. Tim April 9, 2009 at 7:20 am -  Reply

    thankyou for your comments on the safety of small vehicles. You have clearly stated what usualy takes me 30 minutes of yelling and jumping up and down!

    While i dont like the over engineering of the segway and think that there are way better ways of doing the same thing i am just so glad to see any ideas like this being put into production.

  19. romu April 9, 2009 at 7:36 am -  Reply

    I fully understand your points James. But you also have to admit this concept faces some major issues :
    – the cost, a Segway is already out of budget for the most of us and PUMA will probably follow the same direction,
    – there is a size/weight issue regarding the theft of such a vehicle. If I can’t carry it to put it in a safe place during the night, then for sure I have to say “goodbye” to this expensive gadget.

    But that’s a pleasant concept, technically interesting, and I’m sure the team can find workarounds to the main issues (except the cost).

  20. James April 9, 2009 at 7:48 am -  Reply

    Great comments so far! I am really glad to see a discussion on this.

    I am headed out of town right now, and will probably be without internet access through the weekend. I’ll look forward to seeing more comments and joining the discussion when I return.

  21. Adam Smith April 9, 2009 at 8:21 am -  Reply

    the reason this concept irks me so, is that it’s solving a problem that doesn’t exist.

    The fact is there is nothing wrong with cars. There is something wrong with everybody doing everything with cars. We don’t need something wizz-bang to replace the car, we need cities and services that mean we can buy groceries without HAVING to use a car. (BTW, I don’t own a car and wouldn’t want to. I cycle everywhere)

    furthermore, it’s overly technical and fraught with flaws.
    The last thing we need right now is new problems to solve.

  22. Nate (Salt Lake City) April 9, 2009 at 2:05 pm -  Reply


    A good, level-headed contrarian post … and probably a finalist for the Glass-Half-Full Hall of Fame.

    As a designer commenting in a blog that is mostly about design I’ll just mention that – no matter how technologically advanced, or how well-intentioned – Segway designs just look ridiculous.

    And this seems to be part of their intent … just working straight back from function.

    I hope I am in the vast majority of city dwellers who would just rather not be seen in something like this.

    And certainly would not pay big bucks to own one.

  23. Greg April 9, 2009 at 7:58 pm -  Reply

    I totally understand the attraction of the underlying technology, but see this as a solution looking for a problem.

    What’s the advantage of this over an electric assist trike (For balance impaired folks) or (for folks who can ride one) an electric assist bike?

    And what I don’t like about it is the way in which it takes away focus from electric assist vehicles. Cause those are lighter, cheaper, and still have fitness benefits for riders.

    The resemblance to the Wall-E chair is kind of disturbing, too…

  24. B. Nicholson April 10, 2009 at 2:40 am -  Reply

    The P.U.M.A. is a great idea worthy of government investment. Development of the new vehicle was started when G.M. was profitable (before the US federal reserve decided not to meet international demand for US money), and development should continue with an eye to early production. Each one of these sold would spit in the oil cartel’s eye.
    Meanwhile, other vehicles can learn, too. How to get transponders onto every vehicle in the USA? License tags could have a little electronic behind them–so what’s the big deal?
    I drive a 350 mpg hybrid electric 3 wheel velomobile, so I guess I’m not self-conscious about the looks of the P.U.M.A. Adding a body to it, making it a single person vehicle–much more aerodynamic (lean that chair back, baby), and we’ll have a much more efficient vehicle. The range could be doubled with better aerodynamics. (covered wheel-wells, belly pan, boat tail).

  25. MP April 10, 2009 at 7:52 am -  Reply

    The amazing thing about the Puma, and Segway in general, is the efficiency – $.01/mile to operate.

    For some reason, the media has barely touched on this aspect of the Segway story to date.

    It’s true that Kamen’s vision will require significant cultural shifts and is not a direct replacement for the transportation behaviors and patterns we’re accustomed to – but that’s never been his goal.

    Mass adoption of this type of transport would dramatically reduce energy demand. Period.

  26. Anonymous April 10, 2009 at 8:58 am -  Reply

    Its an ‘Electric Chair’ 🙂

  27. JeffS April 10, 2009 at 11:20 am -  Reply

    My ONLY problem with this is the desire to put it in a “bike” lane. It’s clearly not a bike, and doesn’t resemble bike performance. If it can go 35, then why can’t it be in the road with the cars?

    Heck, we don’t have bike lanes, so I’m in the lane with the cars and I can’t maintain 35 on flat ground.

    So now, towns that would never build bike lanes will suddenly start building PUMA lanes?

    Segway has already bullied themselves onto sidewalks and now they’re doing the same on the streets. I’m all for smaller cars, but I just don’t understand the preferential treatment for this company.

  28. erik erlangga April 10, 2009 at 8:27 pm -  Reply

    Interesting blog, nice design, i have bookmarked it for the future referrence.

  29. Ron April 10, 2009 at 11:05 pm -  Reply

    The amount of mobility you get out of the PUMA is amazing. I have respect for Dean Kamen, who is one of the biggest visionaries of our times. Some of his ideas, including mobility products for the disabled, the simple water purification system for third world places, and educative initiatives for kids have immense practicality.

    There’s much to critique on the PUMA for now. Cost, internal space are some of the biggest. It needs more work on it. Its a prototype and I’m sure DEKA and GM will evaluate the responses it gets from people and improve the design.

    I wish we had more people like Kamen, who are willing to explore opportunities and take some risks while innovating products to amplify the human spirit. I’ve always wondered what we’d get if he invented a new bicycle. But its clear that this man has a hellova lot of new ideas.

    Here’s a fantastic interview of Kamen.

  30. Anonymous April 11, 2009 at 6:43 pm -  Reply

    I don’t think there’s really any grounds for argument here. Just like there is a “big blue ocean” of non-bicyclists, there is a “big smoggy festering bog” of motorists using cars that are overkill for their purpose. It’s patently silly to use thousands of pounds of machine to move hundreds of pounds of payload. The PUMA is an attempt to put a consumer vehicle in the fertile but barren space in between bicycles and motorcars.

    That barren ground also has room for recumbent bicycles, velomobiles (3 wheel), streamlined bikes (2 wheels) enclosed scooters and motorcycles. Only velomobiles are really weatherproof (for most peoples’ weather). A sensible next step would be a motorized velomobile, and then produce enough of them that they would become common in use. You can still rent a car when you need something bigger, but this serves the trips that are 5 miles or less which is 80% of most peoples’ travel.

  31. bnate April 11, 2009 at 10:47 pm -  Reply

    Motorized velomobile? Sounds good. Soon people will complain for more facility inside the velomobile and what you have is a car. I think we went through this already didn’t we?

  32. John from Taos April 12, 2009 at 12:16 pm -  Reply

    James: it looks like shit. That’s the bottom line. It’s freaking UGLY. I don’t want to drive it, I don’t want to ride in it, I don’t even want to be seen near it.

    I guarantee you that if it had any style whatsoever, folks would be a lot more tolerant of the idea.

  33. Thylacine Cycles April 13, 2009 at 4:27 am -  Reply

    The Segway was over-hyped, over priced, impractical….a rich lazy persons alternative to walking….a novelty for talk shows.

    And this is different how exactly?

    How is this thing ANY different to a Smart Twotwo except with two wheels instead of four, and a different power source?

  34. Anonymous April 13, 2009 at 10:30 am -  Reply

    I think it’s a great idea.

    I don’t want one, a bike is better for me, but if we can get people out of 2 ton behemoths into these, there will suddenly be a larger constituency of people travelling at our speeds and sharing our vulnerability to heavy metal.


  35. jlseadoorxp April 13, 2009 at 12:32 pm -  Reply

    Cute vehicle, what about AC in the summer heat? Snow? How will I tow my 23 ft Mako behind one? Personally, I think the jury is still out on global whining ..or warming I may ad. Help me out? If Barack was so concerned with “global warming”, why take air force one back to Chicago to take Michelle out for valentine’s day? Air Force one did more environmental damage in one cute but unnecessary flight that a fleet of suv’s trailering their boats to the nearest boat ramp for some family recreation.

  36. Anonymous April 13, 2009 at 12:46 pm -  Reply

    and btw – my tow vehicle is a 2005 Ford Explorer – 20-22mpg hw, 17 city – not bad for the size. My other vehicle that my wife drives is a 2009 Saturn Aura – Around 32 mpg hw, 25-26 city. Still under 5,000 of driving thus far. We plan on keeping what we have for the next 5-6 yrs, but I never plan on giving up boating. Hence,if we are forced “green” in a few years, I need a model that can haul 5,000 lbs up a boat ramp.

  37. Anonymous April 13, 2009 at 7:11 pm -  Reply

    In response to bnate…
    Soon people will complain for more facility inside the velomobile and what you have is a car.

    I respond….
    Maybe, but it will take years of “weight creep” to go from 60-80 lb of a motorized velomobile to 3-7,000 lb of today’s passenger car. In the meantime a lot of energy and space will be saved, so it’s worth a try. And until it’s tried we’re just guessing while the world warms and the skies darken.
    Nick Hein
    Morgantown WV

  38. CleverPete April 14, 2009 at 4:55 am -  Reply

    nice post, i agree with most of what you said
    we’ve created monsters(cars) and whole networks where they can roam, some of them even roam everywhere(SUV’s)
    this world needs a new means of transportation but it starts with a new mindset

  39. Anonymous April 14, 2009 at 8:51 am -  Reply

    Cyclists are too cynical if they don’t embrace this form of “change”? Show the PUMA to the elderly and you’ll inevitably get a “no way” response.

    Who knows exactly what Americans will embrace… they certainly fell in love with SUVs and I couldn’t believe that either. If our new motto becomes “As the PUMA goes so does the country”, then we too are as desperate as GM and Kamen.

  40. Ron April 14, 2009 at 3:35 pm -  Reply

    Looks like what a lot of commentators here don’t realize is that the PUMA is an ‘experimental’ vehicle. In coming out with this prototype, both GM and Segway seems to have dabbled with a number of ideas, some of which are aesthetically sharp looking as well. I’m not a GM fan but I guess we can all say that an experimental vehicle is a half baked cookie, and just because a prototype came out today in an auto show doesn’t mean common people will be sitting on it tomorrow. Ideas evolve for the better. That’s engineering.

    To the uninformed…there was an article in the Wall Street Journal today about PUMA. Also attached was a video from Marketwatch showing other concept ideas behind the vehicle. Read it here.

  41. James April 14, 2009 at 3:57 pm -  Reply

    I was away from home without a connection to the internet for a few days, but it was really great to come back and see the discussion that is taking place in response to this post. Obviously, I don’t agree with all the comments, but I have to admit that some of the ones that take issue with my post are pretty good. Anon 9:34’s rant, which included the statement that “this thing isn’t a ‘small urban vehicle’, it’s a Smart Car that’s had its ass lopped off by a band saw, and for no good reason”, comes to mind as one of the most entertaining. A few of you have commented that you just don’t like the looks of this little vehicle. Fair enough, but keep in mind, as Ron stated in two comments, that it is really just a functional “experimental” prototype at this point. I am confident that the designers at GM can make whatever this little machine evolves into look pretty nice if they are given free reign to do so. Aside from aesthetic considerations, there are other issues to work out, but that is why I am glad to see that the idea is being tossed around at this point. Just keep in mind that it is not a real product yet, just an idea at the earliest stages of the product development cycle.

    A few commenters, Adam Smith being one, pointed out that cars are not necessarily bad, but that our infrastructure, which requires their use for so many trips, is the real problem. True to a point, but that is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. If we want to increase urban density and reduce overall miles traveled, we need smaller, slower vehicles that take up less space. I agree with Anon 7:43, who pointed out that motorists today are using cars that are overkill for their purposes. It is not that larger vehicles have no place (farmers may still need pick up trucks, etc), but a single commuter driving an overpowered 3,000-pound SUV to and from work makes very little sense. As you all know from the post, I am glad to see a concept vehicle like the PUMA, which falls somewhere between a bike and a car, but I am also happy to see more small cars emerging on the US market. The fact that the Fiat 500 (the new version of the old Cinquecento) was named the “2009 World Car Design of the Year” last week at the New York International Auto Show is very encouraging. Even more encouraging is the fact that the little Fiat will be likely available here in the U.S. very soon. The little Fiat 500 may be bigger than the PUMA, but I would still much rather share the road with those than the single passenger Suburbans, Expeditions, and Yukons that are all over city streets right now. It will take time (and probably much higher fuel prices) but I will say again that a trend toward smaller vehicles in cities will make the roads MUCH safer for everyone. That is a fact that is really impossible to refute.

    As others have commented, there is room for more than one solution. Along with better public transportation in most U.S. cities, traditional bikes, velomobiles, small electric vehicles, scooters, motorcycles, and even very small cars can all play a role in a more efficient urban transportation system. The bottom line for me is that this project (or concept, idea, whatever you want to call it) is a step in the right direction for GM. It may not be the one and only solution, but it IS the product of creative thinking and I am glad to see it, and hopefully other projects like it, getting much deserved development resources. Time will tell if the PUMA will turn out to be a popular mode of transportation going forward, but I do believe that it has potential and shouldn’t be killed in its infancy.

  42. randomray April 14, 2009 at 8:56 pm -  Reply

    The Puma is technically interesting but it’s a complicated waste of time . KISS , Keep It Simple Stupid an old army saying . A three wheel velomobile with a power assist would do the same thing without having to worry about it falling over in bad weather or road conditions or if the computer goes out .Why don’t they use it for a robot instead ? As for design it shouldn’t look to far out there, I think many ideas don’t catch on because they look too much like a space ship or machine punk . The average Joe or Jane don’t want something too different then thier neighbors are driving or riding . People are thinking about resale value , too weird and they are the only one that wants it . Personally I go for the path less traveled ,Steam-punk , futuristic art neuvo . Most don’t .

  43. Anonymous April 14, 2009 at 10:41 pm -  Reply

    From what I have read, many are interested in the idea, but not this particular attempt in achieving it.

    I personally like the idea, but this particular attempt is really not achieving the goal.
    The key thing to remember is GM suggesting for cities to adjust around the parameters of this vehicle and not for this vehicle to be 100% compatible to the city.

    That is where this particular attempt is a true failure.
    If anything is going to be successful, it first must achieve the necessary requirements of the environment it is to be operating in.

    – Ryan

  44. L. M. Lloyd April 20, 2009 at 8:50 am -  Reply

    I am all for any form of alternate transportation, and revel in novel vehicle designs, but this one seems like a real dog to me. I feel that the bike form, in all its incarnations (bicycles, motorcycles, scooters and so forth) is a fairly perfected form which only falls down in four areas.

    1) In bad weather it leaves the rider exposed.

    2) When you need to transport a large amount of cargo or passengers, the form becomes impractical.

    3) It requires some limited amount of coordination on the part of the user, which makes some potential users uneasy.

    4) There is no protection for the user, making some potential buyers uneasy.

    In my opinion, any design which is going to take a radical and complicated deviation from the traditional 2-wheel layout, is only ‘worth it’ if it in some way addresses all four of these issues. I believe the Segway was a failure, because it did not address a single one of these issues, making it in no way better than a traditional bike layout, and therefore not justifying in the mind of the consumer the cost or extra complication. From what I am seeing of the PUMA, it will only ever address one out of these four.

    It could be designed to shield you from the weather, to be sure, but the inherent nature of the Segway-type propulsion mechanism makes it less suited to cargo than a traditional bike form, since the cabin weight always has to be centered over the wheels. This means that as you add more cargo or passenger capacity, the vehicle requires longer rails, and a more responsive balancing system. By the same token, anyone uneasy with either the lack of protection, or need for coordination, is very unlikely to be comforted by the PUMA’s odd sliding cabin, back and forth at idle, and inherent instability and top-heaviness.

    I think there is more than enough room for innovation in the market, but I think it is going to require something a bit more inspired than “wouldn’t it be cool if I could put a cabin on top of my Segway?”

  45. L. M. Lloyd April 20, 2009 at 4:02 pm -  Reply

    Oh, I wanted to make one other point which is only tangentially related to this subject, but directly related to your article.

    There seems to be a recent trend in thought that any time someone fundamentally dislikes something, it must be because it threatens them in some way. You express this at the very end of your article. I don’t know when this concept came into vogue, but it is a concept that never really seemed very popular until the web came to prominence, and now seems to be the boilerplate reaction to anyone who dislikes anything.

    While it is true that people will often have a negative emotional reaction to things which they find threatening, that does not mean that the only reason someone might have a negative reaction is because they feel threatened. I have seen very little criticism of this vehicle which would seem to me to denote any sense of being threatened, but rather a lot of aesthetic rejection of the entire concept.

    I think you perhaps miss the validity of some of the criticism of the concept, by immediately assuming any strong negative feelings generated by the design must automatically be a psychological reaction to some perceived threat. It could just as well be, instead, that the design itself evokes negative feelings in people by its very nature. If I had to hazard a guess, it would be because the design seems to hearken back to some strange horseless chariot design, which makes it look very backward-thinking.

  46. James April 20, 2009 at 4:54 pm -  Reply

    L.M. Lloyd, I understand that there are valid criticisms of this or any other concept. Criticisms with thought behind them, like the ones you left in your 1st comment, are great. I firmly believe that debate on these issues is good. Without opposing viewpoints, there is no conversation. My post was triggered by several comments I saw that day which expressed the idea that a bike is ALL anyone should ever need to get around. I am obviously a big proponent of transportational cycling, but to me the preachy attitude that came across in those comments is counterproductive.

    Maybe threatened was not the correct word to use, but when I read comments like “this is a dumb invention, a bike is much better”, I can’t help but think that the commenter is just reacting to be contrary and is not really trying to change anyone’s mind. If someone really thinks an idea is dumb, then they should be willing to explain WHY they feel that way.

  47. L. M. Lloyd April 21, 2009 at 7:34 pm -  Reply

    I agree with you that a fair number of cyclists come of as unbearably preachy. I say this, by the way, as someone who hasn’t owned a car in years, and who I am sure is seen as preachy by many of my friends 🙂

    I even have to admit that my initial reaction to the PUMA was amazement at the lengths to which people would go, to avoid riding a bike. However once I thought about it more, thanks to your article, I realized that the reaction was born of the fact that the vehicle doesn’t really bring anything to the table a scooter with a roof wouldn’t.

  48. Art April 23, 2009 at 4:27 pm -  Reply

    It’s a great concept with horrible execution.
    1) It’s too complicated and expensive. There’s absolutely no reason why this needs to balance on two wheels.
    2) It’s un-sprung. Does anyone know of a city street on which they would actually want to drive this thing 35mph? Even if it doesn’t shake the driver to death, what happens to the motor controllers when one wheel suddenly catches the edge of a pot hole?

  49. Anonymous April 26, 2009 at 9:26 am -  Reply

    James makes a great argument that we need to be inclusive to win. Bikes are great and the government should encourage their use by funding better bike lanes and by taxing gasoline and car registration more heavily. That said – you also need a viable alternative for people who don’t want to ride a bike.

  50. Les April 30, 2009 at 5:23 pm -  Reply

    Actually, this is the first time I have laid eyes on this contraption, so thanks for posting it.

    It’s really great to see alternative transportation solutions like these… but I’m not sure where it fits in your bicycle desing blog (which is truly excellent by the way). After all, it’s not a bike. Nor is it pedal powered…


  51. Anonymous May 21, 2009 at 1:07 pm -  Reply

    I understand and agree with many of your responses to the critisisms of the PUMA, however I did not see you address that it needs its own lane. That is a show stopper in my opinion.

    Either it has to be road safe (and perhaps there is a different set of rules for light vehicles) or it doesn’t work.

    Driving in Bike lanes is not an option, after all there are bikers there, and they don’t want to meet up with a w-i-d-e 300lb vehicle.


  52. Erik Sandblom June 5, 2009 at 6:07 pm -  Reply

    James, If we want to increase urban density and reduce overall miles traveled, we need smaller, slower vehicles that take up less space.

    No. Nobody needs to buy a whole new car just to slow down. And the best way to save space is to simply leave the car at home when it's unnecessary. Half the population of the USA lives within five miles of work.

    And regarding my grandmother, yes, she rode a bike well into her eighties. My other grandmother walked to the grocery store into her nineties. But my mother drives a car to the grocery store. She's afraid to ride her bicycle because of the car traffic! I doubt she would be any more confident if all the cars were replaced by this new device.

    Developing a new kind of whiz-bang vehicle is just a distraction from the real issue: people are afraid to ride their bikes because of all the motor traffic.

  53. Thomas March 25, 2010 at 3:45 am -  Reply

    I agree with you on the P.U.M.A. concept. When I first saw it last year I thought. Well, it’s ugly, strange and far away from production, but at least the guys (or do they have women there) show courage in presenting a completely different approach to ‘cars’. GM won’t earn that much on every PUMA than they would on a fully equipped whatever big car, and that’s a point why many big manufacturers are moaning. I live in Germany and there is a slight change in europe when it comes to what people think about cars. They were beloved babies and chick magnets, but they aren’t anymore. Slowly, but gradually they get what they were supposed to be. Means of transportation. In cities over here carsharing gets more and more popular, so you don’t own a car but just use one when you really need one. I have to stop here, and that shows that the whole P.U.M.A. Discussion is not about the device itself, but about emotions and the uncertain future of the car industry and the world itself. I don’t think that GM has done very much good things in the last years, but the P.U.M.A. certainly is.

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