Cyclists have always had to conform to car culture—to its roads and rules and colossal bloodlust. But with cycling on the upswing in cities all over the world, from Philadelphia to Bordeaux, maybe it’s time to start thinking about how cars can conform to bikes.
One idea, from French designer Vincent Montreuil: Replace cars with compact electric "pods" designed to share the streets with bikes, hassle- (and, hopefully, injury-) free.
Each pod would sit atop an ultra-lightweight aluminum platform and would accommodate anywhere from one to four passengers. Measuring just 4.5 feet wide, 5 feet tall, and less than 8 feet long, it’d cut a tiny figure—tinier even than the Smart Fortwo. As a result, it’d squeeze into freakishly narrow lanes, leaving the rest of the road to bikes. In Montreuil’s vision—which he developed explicitly for Amsterdam—pods and bikes would share the streets 50/50. (Skip to 8:30 in the video for a visual.)
Montreuil sees the pod as a compromise between environmentalists’ yen for car-free cities and the basic impracticality of wiping out cars altogether. Buy a new couch or a Christmas tree, and you can’t very well haul it home in your bike basket. Certainly, Montreuil’s vision is too far-fetched. He wants the pods to replace not just cars but also motorcycles and buses. And he’s developed an entire incentive structure to encourage biking over podding. That’s awfully drastic even for a bike-friendly city like Amsterdam. Still, the fundamental idea here is a good one, and something carmakers would do well to consider: How can we design our four-wheel machines to better accommodate life on two wheels?
[Images via Vincent Montreuil]