Land Consumption Impacts of Fixed Frame Bicycles On A City


Background Reading

Amsterdam Bike Parking © StreetsBlog

Amsterdam Bike Parking
© StreetsBlog

Cyclists are very good at pointing the finger at automobiles and their drivers. But how much more efficient and useful could we make bicycles? The standard Dutch Bicycle is what is used in Europe with near universality. But the barges and other public parking spaces required to hold them is fairly large. Not nearly as large as would be required to store than many automobiles bit still large enough to have an impact on the city that could make much better use of even these spaces if we could find a way to improve the bicycle.

If you consider the automobile for a moment and its parking requirements for home-to-city commuters it suddenly becomes obvious that many commuters turn around and take there cars out of the garage where they are stored to visit restaurants, client sites, business suppliers, and more. And at each of those far-flung sites there is an additional need for bike parking and storage areas. This quickly becomes a nightmare when you consider that there is the potential for literally hundreds if not thousands of diners descending on a restaurant section of town in search of fine dining and a place to park a bicycle.

That means that we are once again using land for something which is not productive. And into the bargain if we do not have designated parking spots like the one pictures in Amsterdam then we are likely to have folks chaining their bikes illegally to fences, handrails, vacant parking meter posts, sign posts and whatever appears to be handy. The problem is that such an unruly mob of cyclists is bound to block the pedestrian walkway or make it unsafe for drivers exiting their cars to get to that same restaurant or bus passengers debark and enter the establishment without injury.

The worse the weather the fewer the options for parking bicycles. And since bicycles come in all sizes and shapes few are uniform when being parked you have the unfortunate problem of having actual bike racks that do not work well with most bikes. You have people who own bikes who are selfish enough that they leave their locks attached to parking structures because they are too lazy to transport their heavy locks and chains back and forth to work. So much for their being healthy individuals who enjoy exercise for its own sake.

Establishments like Active Transportation Alliance have a fairly substantial number of bikes parked outside their downtown offices on the sidewalk taking us space that pedestrians would otherwise be free to use. It means that simple things like staging an unloading of restaurant supplies take more time and is less efficient if bicycles are clogging the walkway. Cyclists often complain about trucks and vans and even passenger vehicles taking up the bike lane for just this kind of thing, unloading supplies and goods. But is it not fair then to ask bicyclists to find an off sidewalk way of harboring dozens of worker bikes in a safer and less restricting fashion? And what does it say about a bicycle advocacy group if it cannot have a special area for visitors riding bikes that is not only off the sidewalk but out of the elements?

So are we cyclists ready to eat our own dog food? I think we can if we chew carefully and take small bites. Strap on your napkins and lets get down to it shall we?

Where Are The Size ‘Weakpoints’ On Traditional Two-Wheeled Bikes?

The one thing that is always a problem on bikes is the wheels. If you are riding even 26-inch wheels they are large and stick out far past the frame itself. Imagine for instance if cars were designed in this way. The obvious solution is to move the wheels further in towards the frame. In fact it they were situated under the frame so that you could still pivot them but when parked they did not jut out farther than necessary that would mean parking spaces could be shorter.

Most of the current bicycle design do okay with respect to the rear wheel. It is often the case that bikes have a relaxed enough seat tube angle that the ride is effectively moved rearward and that means the frame can be shorter. If the rider is positioned to sit more upright that means that the front fork can be moved inward again reducing the overall length of the bike. And if you could make the wheels smaller that would again reduce the effective overall length of the bike.

Handlebars are the one thing on a bicycle that take up side-to-side space. Reducing their width makes it easier to slide a bike into a narrow parking spot on a rack.

Rear and Front Racks can be impediments to keeping the width of the bike narrow. An ideal bike design would make these two areas no wider than the rider and as short as possible. Of course working bikes (i.e. cargo bikes) are not going to be used for personal transportation in the main. They are in effect specialized vehicles. Riding around on one without having either human or physical cargo on a regular basis is a bit like driving an SUV when a SmartCar would do. Do you know anyone who is doing this sort of thing? If so go wag your finger in their face and lecture them on sustainability for the planet.

Functional Equipment for real world traveling. I am thinking here of lights front and rear. And of course no self-respecting cyclist would even think of using a battery driven light when there are perfectly good generators available for that purpose. You of course my gentle reader are using a generator, right? And besides lighting there is the matter of alerting your fellow cyclists, pedestrians and drivers of your presence. So you need at the very minimum a good loud bell or even an air horn if you venture out on very noisy streets. Of course the air horn should either be driven by compressed air and recharged before leaving home for the day or again powered by a generator.

Increasing the effective range of your bike is also important. The best way to encourage riders who live beyond a 10-mile radius of their destination is to electrify their bikes. There will of course need to be a small but very powerful battery involved but it should be tucked away (preferably out of sight) and the operation should be as soundless as possible. The electric motor would be best if it were built into the wheel and not driving it via friction on the tire itself. Further the electrification should augment the human power input not replace it altogether.

So What Does This ‘Updated’ Bike Look Like?

We my friends you an buy one today. They have been on the market for well over a decade or more and they are expensive but not so much so that you would not find them well worth the money. Well to boot this particular bike is being marketed in much the same way as any of the bike share bikes but it a much smarter arrangement. Because it is small when parked it can parked in lockable cages.

But better yet a bike this compact can actually be brought indoors into the office and parked under your desk, or inside the coat closet or inside a janitor closet set aside for just that purpose. It means that the bikes for Active Transportation Alliance workers are indoors out of the elements and more importantly not blocking the sidewalk.

You can cover the bike when brought indoors using one of these methods:

You can configure this bike to allow for fenders and a rear rack:

Here are the lighting configurations you could use:

Here are your front luggage options:

If you need additional luggage for the rear rack here you go:

There are also trailer for the Brompton bikes:

And finally that electrification I told you about:

The Brompton Dock service for rentals is also something businesses could use for the convenience of their workers.

1 Comment

  1. The Dutch have a joke that goes something like, “We all have two bikes; the one you ride and the one with the flat tire.” The joke might actually say three – I can’t remember. In Amsterdam, where the photo was taken, many of the bikes you see in the huge piles around racks are not in rideable condition.

    Much of the bike parking you see in Amsterdam is not temporary destination parking, it is storage. Most people are in smaller spaces, so they don’t have room to store a bike inside.

    The Brompton is a sweet bike, but it has its limitations, (including weight limits). I think folding bikes in general might meet some irrational resistance that is difficult to counter. People don’t like the look, or whatever. It is bit like trying to sell a recumbent (based on comfort – storage size is a big disadvantage 😉

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