If you follow me on Twitter, you may have already seen the pictures I posted of people riding our local Conference Bike this past weekend. One of the bike shops here in Greenville, TTR Bikes, owns that CoBi and generously allows Bikeville (a local bike advocacy initiative that I am a part of) to use it for various events. People in Greenville are getting used to seeing the big red Conference Bike around town from time to time, but it still never fails to generate attention and excitement when it is cruising down Main Street. If you ever get the chance to ride one you should…it is a lot of fun.
The Conference Bike was designed in the mid nineties by Eric Staller, an American artist and inventor who is currently based in Amsterdam. The 400 lb. + bike (well really trike…or quadracycle if you count the two rear wheels that are right together) is made in Germany to Staller’s specifications. It seats 7 people in a ring, but only the driver can steer or operate the hydraulic brakes. I won’t go into much detail about the CoBi, but you can read more about it on the website if you are interested.
The CoBi was not Staller’s first pedal powered creation. If you look at the Urban UFOs section of his website, you can see a few of his previous bike based projects like Bubbleheads (1987) and OCTOS (1990), an eight person pedal powered machine which led to the development of the CoBi. You can also see the Lovebike (2000), which came along after the CoBi and is basically a 5 person heart shaped version of it. For more about Staller’s work, check out his book, “Out of My Mind”, which is available on his webstore of the same name.
The conference bike is definitely an oversized conversation piece, but I think it serves a greater purpose than that. Riding it around town and at events like the one this past weekend gives us the opportunity to talk to people who otherwise might not be interested in cycling or bike issues. Everyone is curious when they see something like this, so when offered a free ride most people are quick to jump onboard. Some of those people may have not ridden a bike since they were kids, but they always have a smile on their face when they step off of the CoBi. As a tool for promoting bicycling as fun (not just green) activity, I think it is great. Every city should have one.