Bikes are in our future, and all of us in transportation cycling want them to be up to the task of taking us where we want to go. On the one hand, really any old bike will do - you don't need much more to go to the corner store than wheels, chain, seat, frame and steering, and a beat-up BMX does the job just fine.
On the other hand, we are continually asking for our bikes to do more and more in supporting us in our lives' tasks - more hauling and schlepping, more all-weather comfort, and yes, more style and ease-of-use - so also we want bikes with a lot of whistles and bells.Much of the innovation around what a utility bicycle should be is happening not at the level of the Trek's and Bianchi's of this world - those companies aren't bothering much with what is considered the tiny utility or cargo bike market. Instead it is the individual or small-group artisan frame builders that are (sometimes wackily) stretching the bicycle's look, feel, and function.
Watching this review video of the Oregon Manifest Challenge (from this September), it is clear from the 35 entries that there's no shortage of good ideas, perhaps even a few great ones.
Many or perhaps even most of the innovations won't make it to the mainstream bike world just yet - the sad truth is that 75% of people that buy bikes go to Wal-Mart and Target to pick up something that will live and die in their basements.
However, just as in the past people have identified strongly with their choice of car - the brand and model they choose reflects both their need for a certain type of transportation and their desire to express themselves through their car choice - a core group of city cyclists is starting to feel the same about their bikes.
Read more about bike design:
Urban Biking's Next Generation: Five Snazzy Innovations
Ford Rides Into Frankfurt With E-Bike
Sneak Peak! Designing the Utility Bike of the Future
Future Bike by Chris Boardman Solar Powered, Theft Proof