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Jens Martin Skibstedt explains that everyone understands that cars are killing us and that bikes are much, much better, but still people prefer to drive. Skibstedt looked at cars and bicycles from a design and lifestyle perspective to try to understand what cars have that bikes lack. Basically, cars make it possible for people to make a more nuanced statement about themselves than a bicycle does. A car has an identity. Bicycles communicate less about who you are. A car, made of hundreds of little components and pieces, is understood as a single object, while bicycles show their parts and even brand the parts independently one from another.

He showed one really great slide depicting a grid of cars all photographed from the same angle and all painted white. I would never be able to tell the name of even two bicycles standing side by side or explain what they mean as status or design objects. But every one of the white cars was both recognizable and full of meaning and connections.

Skibsedt set out to design bicycles which would overcome these shortcomings. The company is called Biomega (watch out, the website makes noise). Here's a picture of one the bikes they designed.

Notes from the talk:

We have known that cities and cars are incompatible since the 1950s. Our cities were not designed for the quantity of cars that we have in them and urban traffic will triple in the next 50 years.

Lifestyle and design are hugely important to people, despite how frivolous we may think that is. All human societies have used design and lifestyle to express themselves. It's as close as we get to mating dances. It's all about how to get laid.

Cities are not only about life but also death. Air pollution kills more than malaria.Copenhagen sees the bicycle as a solution to this problem.

Steve jobs refered to the personal computer as a bicycle of the mind, referring to the fact that a human on a bike is one of the most efficient movers in the animal kingdom. Bikes are 40% faster than cars at peak hours in the city.

Why do cars still dominate most major cities?

Lifestyle and design. Prestige. Bikes can tell you something about a person (soccer mom, courier) but has nothing to do with brand, doesn't really express who you are. There are 30 kinds of 4x4, which are all functionally similar but they represent very different lifestyles. (Hummer vs Jeep vs Land Rover)

We need to have that for bikes. It's not about function, it's about design.

These are the four areas where bicycles need to be improved to compete with cars: Visibility, Drivability, Integration, and Durability.

Visibility: Bikes basically all look the same.

Driveability: Cars are easier to deal with, less fiddly. Less complicated for the user. You don't have to wrangle a U-lock before you can get into your car. Make bikes simpler and more drivable.

Integration: When you see a car it looks like one thing, but on the bike, you see many different things. Different brands on every component. It's a multiple object.

They took inspiration from the typical Copenhagen bike, nimbus motorcycle, mountain bikes, and principles from cars.

These principles can be used for any industrial design object.

We can also do this with busses and trains, communal transport. Think of the London bus, Paris metro entrances.

How do we build a mythology around bikes like we do around cars.


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