This post is going to make a lot of people crazy. Doug Gordon will point to his bike safety idea flowchart. Mikael Colville-Andersen will call me names again. But inventor Crispin Sinclair has tried to do something very interesting: he's designed what he calls the world's safest bicycle, the Babel Bike. He is quoted in a press release:
Our dream is to put a million more cyclists on our roads, and therefore take a million cars off them, and to do that we need to give cyclists their safety back. As a recent report put it ‘If we can tackle the safety issue, we could open the floodgates to a new era of mass cycling participation.
It's designed with a safety cage around the cyclist that bounces off trucks and buses instead of getting dragged under them. The cyclist is seat-belted to ensure that she stays in the cage. Feet are protected by U-locks sticking out the sides. And yes, there's more.
Bikes haven’t seen significant innovation since the 1884 Rover Safety Bicycle. We are delighted to present the biggest step forward in bicycle safety since then and quite simply the safest bike the world has ever seen. The shape and structure of the bikes helps to reduce deaths and serious injuries from turning lorries and buses at busy junctions – the single biggest killers of cyclists, but of course the bikes still need to be fast and fun to ride.
It frankly doesn't look like that much fun to ride, but then cars are not that much fun to drive these days either. It is the sort of passive safety approach that gave us the car's safety cage, air bags and seat belts, the idea that the vehicle itself can help reduce the effects of an accident, vs what used to be called active safety: good steering, good brakes and good training.
On the other hand, adding all this stuff to cars has saved thousands of lives. Sinclair notes that 65% of all fatalities in London are caused by trucks and buses cutting across the paths of cyclists; it happened to him and last week it happened to London arts visionary Moira Gemmill. This bike has been tested against a 38 tonne truck; it was pushed away, where a normal bike and rider would have been run over.
Being a bit heavier than a normal bike, the 250 watt Shimano electric assist motor will probably help a lot. It has automatic lights (just like modern cars) and turn signals, and a very loud horn. All the "oily bits" are sealed inside the frame to keep your clothes clean. "The only maintenance you need to do is to keep the tyres pumped up (and there is a pump and repair kit inside the frame!)"
There are a hundred reasons why this is a terrible idea. Cyclists shouldn't have to be in safety cages; they shouldn't have to defend themselves against trucks in the first place. If there was proper infrastructure for cyclists this wouldn't be necessary. If trucks and buses had side guards and proper mirrors and well trained drivers they wouldn't crush cyclists.
But then if every driver was well-trained, alert, sober, kept their eyes on the road and never made mistakes, we wouldn't need seat belts. Passive safety has worked in cars, might it not also work for bikes? I wonder.
Check it out on Indiegogo; non-electrics start at £1,999, electric boosts at £2,999.
Standard equipment for the electric version:
Custom build advanced safety cell with seatbelt
Custom built frame & seat
Shimano 11- speed hub gears with electronic Di2 shift control
Shimano hydraulic disk brakes
Smart phone mount, holder and charger
Front and rear lights
Rear view mirrors
PinHead© security nuts
high security lock
Smart Water© marking
Pump and aerosol puncture repair kit