I can see the comments already, in bold upper case WHY AREN'T THEY WEARING HELMETS!!!!? There are bigger safety questions than that involved with the Companion bike seat; putting up to 200 pounds over the rear wheel is going to seriously affect braking and turning.
On the other hand, the designers write on their website:
We believe riding a bike is more fun when you can bring a friend along. And our bike seat provides a safe, healthy, and green option for getting you and a friend around town. Now your bike can get you where you want to go, even when there are two of you!
The really interesting thing about this product is that it is a symbol of the normalization of cycling as transportation rather than sport. People are social and this would be very convenient for short trips; people sit on the back of motorcycles and this is really no different; anything that makes bikes more useful, fun and as normal as walking should be encouraged. The locking compartment under the seat is also an extremely good idea. The whole thing just speaks to a different way of thinking about bikes and bike culture.
Not only is Companion Bike Seats a really fun way to get around, we see it dramatically expanding the transport functionality of bicycles, allowing for an additional passenger to ride safely behind the rider. Now bicyclists can offer rides to their friends, pick them up from work or the train station, or even start bike-taxi and ride-sharing services to get people from point a to point b.
If you are careful and follow the directions that are in the operating manual, it is probably a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
As a rider, when you are carrying a passenger on your bike using your Companion Bike Seat, you‟ll need
to make some adjustments to your riding. A passenger‟s extra weight will substantially affect your
bicycle‟s handling characteristics. To help compensate for this difference, remember the following tips:
- Allow more time and space than you normally would
- Be cautious when turning corners
- Brake sooner than normal when carrying a passenger
- The heavier the passenger, the longer it will take to turn, slow down, or speed up
- Always adhere to speed limits and local traffic and biking laws, with or without a passenger on your Companion Bike Seat
- The bicycle should be securely braced before the passenger mounts
In some cultures, bikes are accepted as part of the transportation system, used to pick up kids and baguettes. In North America, there are two contradictory trends: the expansion of bikeshare programs that encourage normalized cycling as urban transportation that results in a fitter, healthier population and fewer cars on the roads, and the "licence and insure and helmet and bell" the cyclist campaigns that make the experience so scary and onerous that nobody wants to get on a bike, which leaves more room for the drivers who are usually the ones demanding these things. (see today's Globe and Mail article for an example of the latter)
The Companion bike seat looks like a fun way to make a bike more versatile and useful. I suspect it will also be very controversial.