It started with a simple premise, design and build an everyday bike that removes the barriers to become an everyday rider. Our previous journal entries for the Oregon Manifest’s Bike Design Project have described our design process and our unique city, this time around we’ll share exactly how Seattle impacted our bike’s design.
Our goal was to design a bike that—in addition to "simple transportation"—provided everything riders would need for their daily commute, but also the occasional impromptu off-routine ride. Core to that premise, was a bike designed to be fully inclusive of three tenets: safety, security, and convenience. We believed if we could truly deliver on those tenets, we could encourage non-riders to choose a bicycle as their mode of transport.
Today’s urban commuter has to navigate a sea of cars, buses and distracted pedestrians undergoing information overload. Visibility is key to safety on the road, we felt the best way to navigate streets and be seen was to mirror the established behaviors of automobiles. Bicycles typically have leveraged strobing lights, but recent research has highlighted that strobing lights can make it difficult for other motorists to judge speed and distance. To that end we have employed the use of day-light-running lights, brake lights, and turn signals like every other vehicle on the road. We feel this not only increases visibility and awareness of the rider’s intentions, but the well known convention of always-on lighting makes our bike easier to track for other motorists.
Next was security—specifically stopping the bike from getting stolen—after all, a user that is worried about the security of their bike will be less likely to ride it. Security can be delivered in two ways; actual and perceptual, so we developed a U-lock handlebar system that meets both. The premise is simple, a locking system integrated into the bike. The handle bar can be fully removed to lock the bike frame securely to other structures (e.g. bike rack). This provides the "actual" security while the presence of a bicycle now with no handlebars acts as a "visual" deterrent. The handle bar also can function as a ‘quick stop’ lock, by simply opening up at one end (like a u-lock) while remaining attached to the bike, the user can quickly secure the bike to a post, a helpful mode for those quick caffeine-fueled pit stops at the local café!
While safety and security are important hurdles to overcome for the well-being of the reluctant rider, perhaps the largest barrier is solving for the inconvenience of riding. To this end we made a point of making everything integrated and where possible automatic. First, we have smart lighting that turns on as the bicycle starts to move, with a two minute delay for those traffic light waits. All the lights adjust their intensity based on the ambient lighting conditions. When it gets too dark the brightest headlights burst in to action, lighting your path safely home. We have an automatic transmission so the rider doesn’t have to think about or fumble around with shifting gears.
Importantly for Seattle, our powered pedal assist automatically kicks in when the user encounters hills or wind and provides a power boost to overcome the obstacle. For further convenience, we have a removable battery solution so you don’t have to lug your bike inside while you are at work or home to recharge it (a plus for those frequent rainy days!). We then added what we feel is a "just right" integrated storage platform for the impromptu stop by the market after work or on the weekend. We’ve tried to consider everything even down to a belt drive versus the more traditional metal chain, to reduce maintenance and the issues of dirt and grease. Finally we rethought the function of the fender, rather than trying to shield the spraying water, we created a fender design where rubber bristles removes the water before it can do its damage.
Aside from functionally achieving safety, security and convenience, we wanted a design that visually communicated those tenets. So our bike, appropriately named Denny (a nod to one of Seattle’s great founding families) has a dependable and approachable gesture. Paying homage to the classic bike frame icon it doesn’t scream, "look at me," it’s simply a robust and confident look for Seattle’s mixed urban environments.
In the end our main goal was to return the user (and ourselves) to those early days of carefree riding, when bicycle riding was just about "get up and go" freedom. Its what we all fell in love with initially with bikes and its what we hope the Denny Bike returns us to.