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Guerilla flower pots and self driving bikes: Weekly round-up #22!

Cycling Blog

Guerilla flower pots and self driving bikes: Weekly round-up #22!

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Safe bikes in Japan

September 21st, 2015

This week’s round-up features self riding bicycles, a cool new cycling start-up from Amsterdam, and some attempts by riders and policy makers to improve cycling in big cities.

The featured image comes from a post on Reddit NattyBumppo expressing amazement at a cycle rack in Japan where none of the bikes are locked up (look again!). The comments range from similar expressions of amazement to philosophic speculation on the different attitudes toward other peoples’ property.

Investing in cycling

An article on the British Cycling website this week outlines the charity’s policy advisor Chris Boardman’s pleas for the government to “put meaningful investment into its forthcoming Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy”. The strategy is part of an effort to reduce levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere through, among other things, developing the nation’s cycling infrastructure. With regards to the government’s position on cycling, Chris says “they shouldn’t be asking themselves ‘why should we?’ invest, but rather, start explaining why they aren’t.”

Chris Boardman quote

By British Cycling: summarises the issue well

A joint letter  by several Liberal Democrats echoes these sentiments and elaborates further, if you’re interested in the issue.

Self driving… bikes!

Self driving cars have always been a contentious concept. Some people think they will revolutionise transport, others think they will destroy jobs and fill the roads with cars that could go iRobot at a moments notice (this article explores both sides). Now with this article that self-riding bikes may be upon us, we wonder what the reaction will be.

The bike itself has some slick features:

  • Controllable by smartphone
  • Fully autonomous functionality if GPS co-ordinates are programmed in
  • Diagnostics and real-time analytics data available for efficient logistics

Though the bikes have several interesting implications (“there could be bikes for street cleaners and postal workers which follow them when they need to walk, for example, or maybe bikes to deliver food and medical equipment in the war zone”), the company’s CEO Kristjan Maruste gives a great and candid justification for the project: “we have built an autonomous bike prototype just because we can!”

Backie to the future

Another innovative cycling website has launched in Amsterdam which offers tourists the chance to grab a backie with a local. YellowBackie aims to combine local expertise with visitors’ inquisitiveness, and gives a bright yellow pannier rack to anyone volunteering their bike for the scheme. If a tourist sees a bike with a yellow rack go past they can yell “backie!” and the cyclist is obliged to stop and give them a ride.

Will Coldwell wrote about this in The Guardian and got in touch with Jeroen Snoodijk, an Amsterdam local who’s signed up for the scheme. He says of his experiences “So far I’ve picked up just one tourist and two locals who knew about it from social media; we had nice conversations about the concept and about how we view the state of tourism in Amsterdam. One of them even joined me and my friends at a party later that evening, so my experiences have been good so far.”

Commentators on the article were quick to highlight our country’s less accepting stance on backies:

Guardian comment

We investigated and it turns out Internet_Pawn is correct: “Giving a backie is illegal under the terms of the 1988 Road Traffic Act. Offenders can be fined up to £200.”

Regardless, we’ve added YellowBackie to our list of cool cycling sites to try along with Spinlister

Our story of the week

We all know the frustration of neglected cycle infrastructure and the feeling that the local authority doesn’t really care. One cyclist in Boston took it upon himself to pick up the city’s slack, and built a makeshift barrier between road and bike lane on a particularly daunting stretch in Boston:

Guerilla flower pots

The makeshift bike lane, linked to source

The cyclist, Jonathan Fertig, decided to build the lane after another cyclist was involved in a fatal accident on the route. He said “it hit me in an unexpectedly personal way; I was searching for a way that I could do something to amplify to fury that many of us in the walking and cycling advocacy community were feeling.”

People have been quick to thank him. In an article about him in FastCo.Exist he said “I’ve had countless people tell me online that the intervention made a big difference.”

Good work Jonathan – it’s great to see people looking for ways to make their city better!

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