Bicycle Commuting Project

Hey guys,

I was hoping to get a little bit of feedback from the wealth of knowledge that is the core discussion board!

I’m an industrial design student from SJSU California (New Zealand originally) and am starting my final year undergraduate project which is aiming to improve bicycle commuting in large urban areas through looking at creating a system whereby not only are the bikes designed for urban travel but the public transport systems are able to accommodate them without some of the major problems that exist today.

I’d love any advice and have put together a quick questionnaire that I would be hugely appreciative if everyone could click and answer a quick 10 question survey.

Thanks so much for all of your help! Feel free to pm me or message me if you have any advice


Took your survey. Question 6 should have “Car” as an option. If I don’t ride, I drive.

Also, do some searches on the boards for effective survey methods. There’s also been some good discussions on commuter cycles here. Do some digging, it might help your research.

Thanks NURB, much appreciated

I have been reading the old forums posted here, specifically the thread from the UC students building the e-bike. I’ll be hoping to push away from the commuter electric bike mainly due to cost issues and focusing on a low cost, easily manufactured bike that has possible applications in the bike share system as well as something people will (hopefully!) be wanting to individually.

#5 should not be a radial button. You ask catagories (plural) yet only allow one choice. Also, I fit three of the four catagories, I cannot choose just one.

I hate correcting words, but better it get corrected by a pseudo-anonymous forum member than a client… it’s “radio button” not “radial button”

Also, I would expect you to ask where we commute (i linked my bike route) I used to commute via bike + commuter rail from suburb to city, now I live + work in the “country” and bike straight to work… big differences.

Whoops. My bad.

My favorite solution

I took the survey but here are a few thoughts I had.

I would like to see a commuter bike focus on bike theft. Its depressing walking around the city and seeing half stolen bikes ulocked to bike parking. If you want to be safe, you have to carry around more then one u-lock or remove the parts you don’t want stolen. Is there a better solution?

Think about the type of weather conditions a rider will be in all year long. Can it change from a “summer” to “winter” bike some way?

Safety - Lights, turn signals, reflectors…?

To fold or not to fold. I like the idea of folding bikes, but I think they look dumb. Is there a way to have a folding bike look like a regular bike?

Good luck.

First look… and I like it :smiley:

Thanks for the thoughts

Really feel like this is one of, if not THE issue for commuter an urban cyclists that really plays on their mind the most. My main thoughts on locks being the fact that you need them to be stored and out of the way when riding, and then you can remove them and use them when parked. I want to see if i can integrate them into the frame? Can the frame shape be built around the knowledge that the bike will be regularly locked up?

Another huge issue that all the people I have interviewed have brought up. Riding in urban environments seems to be as much about being seen as lighting the path ahead, would that be a good conclusion?

I also am yet to see a really nice looking folding bike, but the concept and the idea has merit and i’m definitely not ruling it out at this stage.

How about a demountable?

In doing research for our project (I worked on the UC electric bike) one of the big things about bike theft was the lack of education for the consumers. A lot of thefts result from people poorly locking up their bicycles and practicing good locking habits. Secondly, people spend too little on quality bike locks. I got a lot of this info from police reports and various other sources. To the consumer, the fear of theft and having to carry around a lock is something that does hinder people from riding. Also consider ways to make bikes un-ridable when locked. Take off the pedals, remove the handlebars and you’d have to carry a bike away. Often not worth the effort for thefts.

The biggest issues from my perspective (as a commuter and enthusiast myself) has to be the weather and the workout. People don’t want to ride in the rain, snow, cold, etc. They also don’t want to ride when it’s hot out because they sweat. They really only want to ride when it’s 60-70 and sunny. Obviously that isn’t the majority of days of the year in a lot of regions. These are your average commuters (not necessarily bike commuters). They are the hardest people to get on a bicycle.

On lighting: There’s lights to be seen and lights to see with. To be seen is the most important and thankfully the cheapest. To get lights to see with is often very expensive and honestly often don’t provide adequate lighting. Also in an urban environment streets are often lit. One thing that lighting could be used for is signaling intentions. A lot of cyclist get an attitude like “it’s their road too” (which it is) and then forget to signal their intentions. That gets people hurt and angers drivers. The additional benefit of using lighting for signaling intentions on the road is it provides bicycles with more of a “vehicular status”. People treat something that functions in similar ways to cars as vehicles. Turn signals, brake lights, all very possible for bicycles.

Folding bikes are extremely popular in certain markets/regions. I don’t know what market you are looking towards, be it Europe, US, Asia, but they all are looking for different solutions in bicycles and have vastly different tastes.

Just my thoughts/insights. Best of luck.

I ride a Brompton. I feel its got the best thought out luggage system and smaller wheel size is an acceptable trade off for the compact fold.

Alternatively there is Montague bikes which are more conventional but don’t have the fold and roll convenience.

Took the survey but just wanted to throw my opinion out there.

As a daily bike commuter, and having worked on several bike projects both in and out of school, the biggest issues I see are danger (both perceived and real), weather (when it’s hot or rainy), and ownership (people are actually very intimidated by bikes as well as bike shops).

It’s very tricky when doing bike projects because the bike is such an amazingly simple and successful design that has remained pretty much the same over the last hundred years. I see many student projects attempt at finding solutions to “bike problems” and usually end up creating a much more complicated vehicle (I have been part of such projects).

I own a car and am a huge car enthusiast, but choose to ride my bike, even in the rain, because I hate dealing with parking, I can walk out the door and be on my way, it’s a great way to begin and end the day, I save money on gas, and overall because it’s fun. I really think designers forget the fun factor when approaching these projects and often create very utilitarian even “idealist” vehicles that the real rider won’t be attracted to. I have seen many non-riders be swayed by modern day imagery and use of bicycles in the fashion world to get back on the saddle.

Bikes are extremely efficient, yet can also be extremely beautiful. Create a desire for people to ride them.

I just wanted to bring up not just focusing on the bike itself but accessories that may help the commuter or can be added or modify an existing bike. Remember bike commuters are not novice users, but very experienced ones. A kit that could convert a townie into a folding bike could be a very cool.

The Strida has been around for a while. It was originally a school project Mark Sanders worked on.

I worked in a bike shop in London where we sold a lot of the plastic Stridas- they seemed OK for very short trips (I sold one to a guy who boated a lot- it seemed great to be able to fold up on his yatch, then he could get it out to ride up the dock).

For me I’m lucky my work has dedicated bicycle storage ( a building with pass card entry) with lockers and showers- for me this is the biggest issue. Living where I do when in Summer it regulary tops out 40C (104F) not having a shower means even the smallest ride means a change of clothes and shower at the other end.

The Bike shop issue is a good one- for most people going into one is very offputting and uncomfortable, it feels very exclusive and technical and elite-sport focused, and some staff treat you if you aren’t spending $3000+ then you are a joker.

I think the main issues that stop people from even trying to commute is safety and perceived effort. Safety requires education and infrastructure, perceived effort is harder to convince people to overcome. I live a 40 minute walk from my work (about 5km or a 10 minute ride), and when I tell people that I walk they behave as if I’ve walked from another city. Riding is worse- I’ve lived in other suburbs and done a regular 25km commute (about an hour in traffic) and a 15km commute with an 600m climb up into the hills, (about an hour and 15 minutes) and people are gobsmacked- they literally cannot comprehend getting off their fat arses and even attempting something which their sedentary slothful bloated bodies would adapt to in a week.

thanks jurrasix,

nice to meet someone from that project as ive been reading up on it :slight_smile:

interesting point about the locks, I have been toying with the ideas of the removable handlebars, with the possibility of them un-clipping to become locks to secure the bike.

The lighting issue I think is an interesting one, as the being seen issue also comes into play a lot. Reading over the nacto pdf that was posted on core yesterday and being out talking to people and watching busy urban intersections, the tensions between drivers and cyclists get pretty heated sometimes. There are some close calls around intersections during these peak times that are seemingly caused by both parties not knowing what the others are doing and having to make presumptions on where the other party is headed.

You mentioned the ownership issue which is very true and has come out of my interviews with bicycle commuters and non-riding commuters. People seem to be slightly worried to walk into a bike shop when something goes wrong with their bike, especially the beginner cyclists who haven’t been commuting on their bikes for a long time and maybe don’t know the inner workings of their bike as well.

I really want to focus on creating a simple solution and for that reason i’m hesitating to move too far towards the electric bike and want to maybe focus around the idea of creating a simple, easy to use, easy to fix bike that anyone could jump on and ride.

I’ve always been a fan of the customising option as well, or a way that the accessories we carry around with commuter bikes can be integrated into the frame, with the possibility of locks, lights, possibly even basic tools becoming part of the overall package.

So, what are the major problems that exist with public transport and bicycles today? Nearly all public mass transit in the US allows bicycles fairly easily.

Here’s how we do it in Minneapolis by bus:

By Light Rail train:

And by train:

which is probably the most cumbersome, but least used option by most bicycle commuters.

As for the bikes themselves, I spend some time working at a local shop, so I’d love to sell a new bike to everyone who walks in the door. But, the truth is, most dedicated commuting specific bikes are $1000 and up, well out of the budget of someone who isn’t quite sure that commuting to work by bicycle is for them. I think the problem with the industry right now is that companies are developing commuting specific bikes and they expect to gain all kinds of new riders. The reality of that is that most of the people who buy commuting specific bikes (the Trek Soho on the low end, Civia Hyland on the high end) already have a stable of bikes at home that they don’t want to “ride to work” or “ride in the rain” or “leave outside”. These people also have high expectations for bicycle performance.

What can you come up with that would be a simple, inexpensive, relatively durable and efficient bike that almost anyone would want to jump on and start commuting to work/school by bike? If you can crack that nut, you’ll really be on to something.

A friend of mine actually graduated with a citybike which had a handlebar that turned into the lock. His design was picked up by Giant Bicycles and has proven quite popular in the Netherlands.

Link to his site: