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How much is too much?


TS N TE

12 – STRAVA 18 – BORIS BIKES 24 – IMPLICATIONS

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6 – HOVDING


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The past two decades have seen a massive rise in the amount of technology for cycling. With the introduction of GPS, virtual trainers, electronic assisted gears and 3D printing cycling has evolved rapidly. I would like to discuss how the technology has progressed throughout the years and how this has helped, and developed, athletes as well as the average cyclists.

What does the future hold if cycling technology is rapidly expanding? Within the past few years it has been a ‘fashion’ and ‘trend’ to have a bicycle from the 70’s so may this change the direction for the future?

There are also a lot of technologies that are making it safer for the daily commuter and average cyclist, such as the inflatable helmet air-bag by Hovding. It is designed to be worn as a discrete scarf around your neck but once you fall, or have an accident, it will inflate a soft shell that protects your head like any other helmet. The idea is revolutionary in cycling safety but there are many downfalls such as expense, reliability and only being able to use it once. Boris bikes are also an idea tried and tested in London. The idea was good but, again, had many disadvantages such as reliability and performance

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Although technology is usually a step forwards it can also create controversy and a debate into whether technology and cycling should mix. The bicycle has been around since the 1800’s and, only recently, has started to evolve to make it easier to cycle.


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7 7 HOVDING


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CYCLING X TECHNOLOGY | | HOVDING

The Hovding airbag helmet, and brand, began in 2005 in Malmo, Sweden. It was founded by Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin who, at the time, were studying industrial design at the University of Lund in Sweden. The idea of developing a new type of helmet was a response to the introduction of a law on mandatory helmet use for children up to the age of 15 in Sweden, which triggered a debate on whether cycle helmets should be mandatory for adults too. Anna and Terese saw their master’s thesis as an opportunity to find out whether it would be possible to develop a cycle helmet that people would be happy to wear – whether they had to or not. The project resulted in the concept of an airbag helmet, which won Innovationsbron’s ideas grant. This kick-started the process of developing Hovding into a real product. Today Hovding consists of 17 people, each with their own unique expertise, different backgrounds and personalities, inspired by each other and working closely together. “When we first saw the promotional photos of the Hovding airbag helmet system, we instantly dismissed it as some kind of viral joke or a mad scientist dream. But here at Eurobike, we got a chance to talk to some of their employees and we learned of a very serious effort to improve the safety of cyclists. It’s a serious product from Sweden and their claim is it offers more protection than a standard helmet, while not having the dreaded helmet head for bike commuters.” Some of the safety advantages are that it dissipates shock and impact better than a regular helmet, as it inflates with its soft-shell airbag. It also protects the lower head area whilst supporting the neck, and does not let your head twist or jolt from the fall.


CYCLE HELMETS SHOULD BE MANDATORY FOR ADULTS TOO


IN THEIR CASE ONE FAULTY PRODUCT MAY END UP WITH THE AIRBAG NOT DEPLOYING AND SERIOUSLY HARMING THE PERSON USING IT


CYCLING X TECHNOLOGY | | HOVDING

Another drawback is that it is run by technology. I’m sure that extensive testing of the product will put many buyers’ minds at ease but any technology will always have its fault. In their case one faulty product may end up with the airbag not deploying and seriously harming the person using it. Also the system is battery operated, which could be an inconvenience to remember to keep it charged. Hopefully nearer the future these Hovding helmets will get easier to produce, which could bring the price down and be affordable for all cyclists. I also wonder what the future holds for Hovding as they expand. Maybe we could see similar products that protect other areas. Personally I think this product needs time to develop and expand, and could be a huge success in the next decade.

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Despite winning a lot of awards since it began in 2005 there will always be some disadvantages. One of the biggest factors is the cost. Although it is still in the early stages of production, and may get cheaper in later years, it costs around five hundred euros. This is a lot of money for an athlete, let alone an average cyclist, to spend on safety gear. That money could buy a new bicycle or a superior quality helmet with money left over. Another major factor in the Hovding is being able to only use it once. It does not have a retractable system in place and, whilst researching this product, I found out that you are unable to recycle it back to the company for reassemble. Despite the high price tag, that puts it out of reach for most average cyclists, it is definitely an alternative to the standard helmet. Especially where wearing one is not optional and part of the law.


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13 13 STRAVA


CYCLING X TECHNOLOGY | | STRAVA

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We have also seen a number of smartphone applications emerge in the past years, such as Strava. Strava tracks your ride via GPS and records your mileage and speed whilst you cycle, whether you are riding alone or with others. It then ranks you on an online leader board over different routes called segments. This has been a huge motivator in getting people to cycle as it encourages the rider to maintain a high average speed as well as travelling further.

Strava began in 2009 and has rapidly grown into a worldwide smartphone application used by all types of athletes. It covers various activities such as running and cycling, from the serious road racing cyclist and downhill mountain bikers to the common daily commuter. I, personally, use Strava whenever I get the opportunity. I feel it makes your average cycle much more competitive and you really do strive for the best result. Some may argue that it has become over competitive, as the Cycling Association are trying to ban it in the main city of London. People have started to break the law in order to get a faster time by cutting up traffic and racing through red lights. The idea really does encourage people to get out there and cycle but it does come with its competitive dangers, which could be fatal. There is also the social impact. Although it lets you share your cycles with other friends, it also encourages you to ride alone. This may start to subtract the fun aspect of cycling and end up with a lot of lonely athletes, plugged into technology and switching off from the natural world.

Although Strava is an application purely for fitness, and competition, it can be disastrous if used in the wrong hands. There have been recent news stories about thieves using the applications to track the cyclists back to their houses and garages where there bicycles are stored. As Strava uses a ‘Facebook’ style platform you have to create an account and say a few things about yourself before you get started. The majority of bicycle rides either start or finish at your home address. As the application is free on all smartphones this allows them to use it just as another user. Apart from they will not be riding or competing. Instead they will be finding the profile of a dedicated user, and cyclist, find out where they live and steal their pride and joy. Of course this argument could apply to any social media in where we upload photographs and details, but as Strava is purely for cycling then this makes it a lot easier to target.


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G N O I S U N T TS S O IS S E I L E V T E A YC US I C C O H I T PL E H H IR P T A E K E H C H T T RA O T T K C A B


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CYCLING X TECHNOLOGY | | STRAVA

“An unscrupulous individual could use the information to easily pinpoint the storage location of bikes in any given area - and since some sites allow you to name your bike, they could even identify the location of an exact make and model. Cycling Weekly has been told of several incidents recently where thieves have appeared to target a particular address, turning up fully equipped with cutting equipment and getting away with thousands of pounds worth of cycles. Several of these stolen bikes have been equipped with GPS computers. Showing the world how great you are on a local climb is one thing, but showing the world that you have several thousand pounds-worth of bikes tucked up in your garage is not a great idea.” – Nigel Wynn Overall I think Strava has, and will be, a big success. It has certainly made me strive for a better result each time and constantly push myself, even when commuting to and from. The consequences of my performances have also made my friends want to beat me within certain segments. It has also introduced new cyclists within my social group, as friends have contacted me what I use to track my rides and to see if they can join. Overall I feel that Strava does not get in the way of the joy of cycling. I think it adds to any cycle ride long or short. Some applications can overpower your cycle and shout directions at you or notify you every milestone, but with Strava you can turn it on, record, ride and not be bothered until you finish.


SHOWING THE WORLD THAT YOU HAVE SEVERAL THOUSAND POUNDSWORTH OF BIKES TUCKED UP IN YOUR GARAGE IS NOT A GREAT IDEA


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19 19 BORIS BIKES


CYCLING X TECHNOLOGY | | BORIS BIKES

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Although it is not a new technology as such, Barclay’s cycle hire, or more commonly known as Boris bikes have had a big impact in the cycling community. They were introduced by the mayor of London - Boris Johnson, and are a new way to travel around London. With over 8,000 bicycles, spread across 550 docking stations, anyone can hire a bicycle to travel. The cost is relatively cheap with a £2 registration cost and a free 30 minutes at the start of your journey. The bicycles are fully equipped with lights, a bell and are regularly serviced and replaced. The scheme came into action in 2010 and only features in the city of London. There are also other features in place to help you find a bicycle to hire; including a smartphone app and a number of social networking sites making it easier and more accessible for everyone. There have been around 17,000,000 rentals since the start of the project.

“When Barclays Cycle Hire, London’s newest mass transit initiative, celebrates its first birthday at the end of the month, its unmistakable bicycles will have crisscrossed the capital 6 million times. If the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wanted to raise the profile of cycling then he has certainly succeeded – from the title sequence of The Apprentice to an endorsement from Arnold Schwarzenegger” – Tim Lewis, The Observer. The first few years proved to be a success in the first early years of the project. Unfortunately, like most government-run schemes, there will always be someone who does not benefit from it. There have been strikes in recent months due to pay and conditions of the workers who maintain the bikes and docking stations. This will have a massive effect throughout London with all the daily commuters who depend on these bikes regularly.

“Workers on London’s bicycle hire scheme are ‘solidly supporting’ a 48-hour strike over pay and conditions. Members of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union employed by Serco on the so-called Boris Bikes have mounted picket lines. The strike action finishes on Tuesday night although an overtime ban will remain in force. It comes as the Government announced it will invest more than £100m in making England’s roads more cycle friendly.”


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CYCLING X TECHNOLOGY | | BORIS BIKES

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The Boris bikes were a brilliant idea to help motivate people to cycle more and reduce heavy city traffic. Unfortunately they had a number of issues and were heavily criticised. The scheme cost £140,000,000 to set up and tax payers over £1,400 per bicycle each year despite sponsorship from Barclay’s Bank. Altogether it cost taxpayers £11,000,000 each year to keep the scheme running and Boris Johnson was accused for ‘failing to strike a good enough sponsorship deal with Barclays’. They have similar schemes running in several countries which have proved successful. New York, Paris and Montreal are completely funded by sponsorships and do not cost anyone in taxes. Could the UK learn from other countries in order to make it cheaper and even more accessible?

The bicycles themselves are not very well designed. From a daily cyclists point of view they are too big, heavy, bulky and do not offer a solution for a long comfortable cycle. But from a statistical point of view they have been a success as figures show that between July 2010 and April 2011 only 15 were stolen, as the people of London respect them. There has been discussions between the TFL (Transport for London) on how to improve them including providing a lock but do not discuss the opportunities on improving the heavy, clunky design. Recently (October 2013) Boris Johnson plans to trial an e-bike which may see away with the old outdated version. An e-bike is an electrically assisted bicycle which helps you maintain speed without peddling. The introduction of the e-bikes has its disadvantages as well as the obvious benefits. This would make them harder to maintain and raise costs in providing 5,000 new bicycles. The ‘docking stations’ would also need to be replaced and changed to a charging unit which, again, would be harder to maintain. It might make the bicycles more valuable which could raise the rental costs and also make them more desirable to steal.


Overall I think the ‘Boris Bikes’ have been a success in central London. Although they are not the most well thought-out design, and have a number of teething issues, I think any scheme that promotes cycling and offers access to everyone will prove to be an advantage in the near future. I would like to see a similar scheme in other areas and cities in the UK. I do not think the introduction of an electrically assisted Boris bike will be a good idea. This will evidently make the bike more desirable to thieves, and will also cost more time and money in upkeep and maintenance. I feel that in the near future a publicly bicycle sharing scheme will shape the way for the majority of commuters coming in and out of busy cities.

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Barclay’s Cycle hire also implemented 4 major cycle routes in London known as Cycle Superhighways. There are currently 4 but they plan to have 8 more running by 2016. This has made it safer, faster and easier for all types of cyclists commuting in and out of London. It has also helped with traffic flow as cyclists no longer have to compete for space to share the busy and overcrowded roads.


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25 25 IMPLICATIONS


WE ARE AT THE START OF SOMETHING WONDERFUL IN THE WORLD OF CYCLING


CYCLING X TECHNOLOGY | | IMPLICATIONS

“Berlin makes getting around on two wheels a pleasure. I have cycled in London but gave it up after too-many rants at a white van. But in Berlin, it is a joy. Firstly, the city is pretty flat, and secondly, there are endless cycle tracks. Thirdly, everybody has a bike - so car-drivers are probably also cyclists in their other lives and so keep their eyes wide open. The test of whether cycling has really taken off in a city is who does it. In New York, it is urban warriors, young men usually, who zip aggressively between lanes. In London, it’s a bit of that, but also, I suspect, eco-zealots who are asserting their credentials - though the Boris bike scheme may be taking it more mainstream. In Berlin, it is the people. Old ladies cycle in stately and elegant fashion, old men pedal so slowly that it’s a wonder the bike doesn’t fall over. So Berlin now has about 400 miles, or 600km, of bike lane. Woes betide any tourist who strays from the walking bit of the pavement to the red cycling bit. The city is also integrating bikes into the whole transport system - you can take a bike on a train or tram, though you need a special ticket for the bike.” – Stephen Edwards.

I would like to see a similar scheme happening in major cities in the UK. It would benefit not only the cyclists but also ease traffic flow and disperse congestion. Although having a separate cycle way may have its disadvantages. This could completely detract from the cycling experience. It may be too busy with cyclists and may prove stressful on a daily commute. Although cyclists have the right of way on the roads I do not think the majority of car drivers know that. More money should be spent educating new drivers on how to deal with cyclists instead of segregating cyclists to have their own ‘road’. There has been a recent develop in fixed gear bicycles. These are bikes which have one fixed gear so you cannot stop peddling once the bike is in motion. These types of bicycles used to be around in the 1970’s and 80’s but have recently became very popular with the modern commuter. The idea of having a fixed gear bicycle, or ‘fixie’, is that it becomes a part of you and you feel closer and more responsive to the bike. They also require the least amount maintenance and can be moderately inexpensive. This recent trend has seen a huge development in new companies, films, books, events, and all other types of activities and media. Could the ‘fixie’ era change the outcome of the future? Overall I think we are at the start of something wonderful in the world of cycling. It is really developing into something pleasurable and frequent for everyone. I think technology will always have its disadvantages but it’s from these that we learn and overcome the problems it throws. I hope to see our government grasp that the cycling community is only going to expand and act on this with new cycle routes, and schemes, making it easier and accessible. Instead of technology making it easier to cycle, I would like to see technology complimenting cycling whilst bringing back the joy and simple pleasure of it. With our smartphone, cameras and gadgets developing further each year it is only a matter of time before we see further expansion of cycling applications, gizmos and inventions.

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The relationship between the numbers of cyclists in one city implicates the precautions that the council will take to protect cyclist, drivers and pedestrians. For example, Berlin, Germany, has around 500,000 cyclists a day that accounts for 13% of the total traffic (2009). This has led the city to create separate segregated cycle lanes and cycling networks throughout. The city has over 390 miles of lanes dedicated to cyclists. They are also allowed on all types of public transport given even more reason and motivation to travel by bicycle.


QUOTES

http://designcollector.net/files/hovding-0.jpeg

Alstin T. & Haupt A. (2005). Hovding - Airbag Helmet.  Available from: http://www.hovding.com/en/ [Last accessed 13th January 2014].

http://api.ning.com/files/G3ZJNeO5HozJ4amUGg28qUTJk u38kY41Dd4p37kos8csgOwsJz-QaZN41Uk0dKB1mr47wp Y4Ig1GQQlLYXJOFkW4J*WdnrEh/Strava.Garminviphone2. jpg%3Fwidth%3D750 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1f/ Barclays_Cycle_Hire,_St._Mary_Axe,_Aldgate.jpg

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http://www.greensprawl.org/home/wp-content/ uploads/2012/03/BIKK1.jpg

Francis C. (2013). Eurobike 2013: Hovding Airbag Bike Helmet. Available from: http://reviews.mtbr.com/eurobike-2013-hovdingairbag-bike-helmet. [Last accessed 13th January 2014]. Mark G. (2009). About Strava.  Available from: http://www.strava.com/about. [Last accessed 13th January 2014]. Wynn N. (2010). Ride mapping sites: The bike thief’s new best friend? Available from: http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/ blog/532373/ride-mapping-sites-the-bike-thief-s-new-best-friend. html. [Last accessed 13th January 2014]. Lewis T. (2011). Has London’s cycle hire scheme been a capital idea? Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/bikeblog/2011/jul/10/boris-bikes-hire-scheme-london. [Last accessed 13th January 2014]. Sky News. (2013). Boris Bike Strike: Serco Workers Walk Out.  Available from: http://news.sky.com/story/1127475/boris-bikestrike-serco-workers-walk-out. [Last accessed 13th January 2014]. Evans S. (2012). Is Berlin the safest city to be a cyclist?  Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ magazine-20068083. [Last accessed 13th January 2014].

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CYCLING X TECHNOLOGY

How much is too much?

CYCLING X TECHNOLOGY  

For my dissertation I wrote about the implications of technology working alongside cycling. I covered 4 main areas with both for and against...

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