Google bikes

I was at Google’s campus in California this week. 

Great to see they encourage cycling for employees with these fun branded bikes. 


Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Described as the the World’s First Electrical Walking Bike, it sure is odd.

Website is only in Dutch: https://lopifit.com/en/

Bike sharing in China

Similar to my post on bike sharing in China from a couple of weeks back, here’s one better researched, and better written, from The Guardian:

Bike-sharing revolution aims to put China back on two wheels

Clearly I was very lucky to be there under blue skies!

Beijing, China

Last week I took a trip to Beijing, the capital city of China. As you probably know, China is the most populous country in the world, by far, with a registered population of almost 1.4 billion. That is roughly equivalent to the population of Europe, North, Central and South America combined, in a single country…

While China is huge (third largest geographical area in the world after Russia and Canada), much of this population is concentrated into urban areas. You may not know there are 144 cities with an urban population over 1 million people. Which may seem hard to believe. If you take metropolitan or administrative area into account, this number is significantly higher.

Needless to say, stats like these indicate major challenges for urban planning, and with government policy focussed on economic growth, it is safe to say some other policy areas are deprioritised.

Beijing, has a registered urban population of c.21.5 million people, and some pretty infamous pollution. I had the opportunity to experience this first hand last week, and can confirm it is considerably worse than any other city I have visited. To have to breathe that toxic air daily must be incredibly harmful and I dread to think of the effects on young children.

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The following picture clearly shows the polluted air visible from the plane I arrived on.

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You may recall seeing photos until the mid 80s of hundreds of thousands of bicycles being used as a principal means of urban transport. Since the 1980s, with the growth of the economy, the bicycle has been actively displaced by cars, which now clog the streets and contribute to the pollution.

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It seems bicycles are making a (small) comeback. Electric bicycles are popular in Chinese cities (often on pavements, at night and with the lights turned off), but it seems the public rentable bicycle is also making an appearance.

Personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable riding in horrendous traffic, breathing toxic air, but apparently some people do. I saw quite a few of these bikes in downtown Beijing, one of which had a pretty interesting tyre design. This one is by Mobike.

The tyre is solid rubber, but has holes drilled through it. Presumably this decreases production cost, avoids maintaining inner tubes, provides some cushioning and decreases rotational weight. I always enjoy a simple, low tech solution, and this is pretty clever.

While this can have only the most minimal effect on the country’s pollution, it’s a step in the right direction. But it would be a long path back to the mass bicycle use of yesteryear!

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Neat way to keep your bike safe in the city

Who doesn’t enjoy neat solutions, effectively implemented. Looks great!

A saddle and a lock, at the same time…

This is a pretty neat idea. Saves lugging a lock/chain around, and avoids scratching your paint while you’re riding.

I do wonder how heavy it is, but in fairness, on a town bike it probably won’t make much difference to “performance” or centre of gravity.

PS. I unfortunately have not received one to test, but if the right people are reading this, you know what to do! =)

Now that’s what I call infrastructure

I’ve been lucky enough to live in a few countries over the years, but it’s not until I came to Switzerland that I have seen bike infrastructure this good.

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You might say “bikes on a train? Nothing special”. But…

  • Every train has bike storage, and on most every carriage (local trains), not just the mail carriage by the engine
  • There’s 5 or 6 bike slots on this carriage, not cramped together into a corner by the door. Half the seats in the carriage have been taken out to make space for bikes.
  • There are huge bike parking facilities at most stations. Almost too big actually… Good luck finding your bike again (ugly bright colours are your friend).
  • Check out how clean the train is (and the bike). No clutter, no tangle of bicycles banging into each other.
  • This is an intercity commuter train between two major Swiss cities at peak time…

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Swiss people are, in general, affluent (certainly compared to the global average), and this choice is not motivated by cost savings, but by an enjoyment of riding.

For cycling to be an option as part of our daily back and forth, it has to be easy (and safe). In most cases, cyclists accept (sometimes unreasonable) compromises in order to cycle daily.

This is a great example of a society in which a “normal” person, rides from home down to the central station, pops her bike on the train, travels to another city, pops the bike off the train and then parks it at work.

Hers is the pink road bike in the picture above. She is dressed for the office, not for a cyclocross event.

Of course full lycra, SPD clip shoe commuter cycling on a full carbon road frame remains an option…

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These facilities are a great step in the right direction, towards keeping people heathy, safe and happy. That’s what our public institutions should be doing, and what we should be asking for.

Well done Switzerland.

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