Copenhagen is world-famous as a city obsessed with bikes. Some 52% of Copenhagen residents commute to work by bike every day, almost three times as many as in the most bike-friendly city in the U.S. So it’s a little surprising that someone from Copenhagen has invented something that he claims is better for urban riding than the much-beloved bike.
"The Me-Mover is the first personal active transporter that is really designed for the city," says Jonas Eliasson, who worked with a team to design the new device over the last five years. With three wheels, the Me-Mover lets someone ride upright—a little like a Segway or another recent design, the Halfbike—and pump pedals up and down for a high-intensity workout. In a single second, it can fold down to the size of a standard briefcase, so it can easily fit on the subway or on a bus.
"I think more and more people realize that changing from an active to passive lifestyle has great potential for improving their well-being and in general having a better life," says Eliasson. And while cycling is obviously much better exercise than driving a car, Eliasson says that the Me-Mover can provide a better workout than even racing a bike.
It works a little like a step machine: To move forward, you don’t just push the pedals down, but lift them up again, balancing on one leg as you step up and down. By varying your pace, and carving through turns, you can work out different muscle groups throughout your entire body. In lab tests, the company found that the vehicle beats the intensity of cycling by 40%. "It’s comparable to the maximum exercise you can get from running, without the impact and strain on tendons and joints," Eliasson explains.
Since the Me-Mover is designed for upright riding, it’s better for posture and, at least in theory, more comfortable to ride. It also may be safer, since riders are in a higher position above traffic and therefore more visible to cars—and better able to see obstacles themselves. Standing upright means there’s more wind resistance, but Eliasson thinks that’s actually a good thing when you’re riding through city traffic. "On racing bike you would reach a lot higher speeds, but they're dangerous," he says.
When people make the split-second decision whether to drive on a short trip, Eliasson hopes the convenience of the design will help make it simpler to forego the car. Unlike a standard bike, it can fold down to about 18 by 13 inches, and can roll inside shops or on public transit without getting in the way.
It's also designed to be fun to ride, a little like a combination of skiing and skating. "Our only purpose is to make people move actively, by making it more convenient, simple and fun than not to do so," Eliasson says.
"Basically we are fulfilling Dean Kamen’s Segway dream with a more fit and sound vehicle."
The Me-Mover is crowdfunding on Kickstarter now, and has blown past its original goal.
Still, it seems like it could be a tough sell for those who aren't already fit; if some people are too lazy to jump on a bike—or go to the gym—will they want to sweat through traffic?
And then there are those who think the original bicycle doesn't need reinventing. "The bicycle has served human society fine for 125 years," says Julie Kierkegaard, who works with the Copenhagenize Design Company, a Copenhagen-based firm that helps cities improve cycling infrastructure. "Gimmicks like this will never last more than a year."