When grist picked up NPR's feature of Google's seven-person conference bike in a piece on tech companies leading cycle-commuting culture, it took us for a walk down memory lane. TreeHugger featured the Conference Bike as long ago as 2005.
Google's transportation program manager Brendon Harrington described the conference bike to NPR:
Imagine one person facing forward and then the other six people around a circle. And the way the bike is manufactured and constructed, everyone can actually peddle at the same time -- all contributing to propel the bike forward. But since they're facing each other, they can chat with each other, they can share ideas, they can have a team meeting if they'd like.I was lucky enough to ride a Conference Bike at the annual open factory day at cutting-edge specialty bicycle manufacturer Hase, home of the Hase Pino, made famous by Mandy and Benny in their world record tandem bicycle journey (the TH exclusive revealed the twist that caused the pair to break off their circumnavigation attempt).
Our review of the bike highlights the reason the conference bike continues to spread in spite of its awkward mass and dimensions:
The motion is unfamiliar: you pedal forward as if on a regular bicycle, but your seat slides sideways or backwards if you are sitting anywhere except in the captain's seat. And if that has not brought a smile to your face, looking into the eyes of the person directly across from you soon will.
The Conference Bike website records the history of the Conference Bike, or Co-Bi, by installation artist Eric Staller. For 9850 euros (approx US$12,800), you can place an order for your own Conference Bike.
The conference bike can now be seen in cities across the world, often moseying right down the middle of a lane of city traffic, giving people a chance to appreciate life as it could be: slow, communal, and green.