Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Fad? A Trend? I Hope.

Velomobiles. I have to say I've become a little obsessed with them lately. Last summer, I found that riding a bicycle to work can be a really great way to commute. It's healthy, it's energizing, it's cheap and it doesn't pollute the air. What's not to like? There are even electrically assisted bikes for those whose want to get there fast is greater than their level of fitness. Well, there are some difficulties. Weather, for instance: in most climates, if you don't plan ahead for it you will eventually have problems. Didn't bring your rain gear? Tough luck if you get caught in the rain miles from home. Even bigger problems if it's not a warm summer shower. Want to carry a couple bags of groceries home from the store? I suppose that with the proper accessories (packs, panniers, trailers, etc.) you could get the job done on a bicycle, but it might not be an easy task. While velomobiles may be heavier than most bicycles, they do help to address these problems as well as others with enclosed storage and cockpits and offer a practical alternative to driving a car for most short trips around town. I can't say that I expect great numbers of people to sell their cars (or even second cars) in exchange for velomobiles, but if they were more common, or even if the average American knew what one was I think they would at least have a bit of a presence in this country. (I'll stop short of predicting popularity.) I think, at least in my own web-headed version of reality, that awareness is growing. For instance, Wired magazine recently ran a story on velomobiles. Out in the world, people are seeing this and making it part of their knowledge. I like to use as a way of guageing popularity. If a user sees something and wants to be able to find it again he or she will most likely link to it. Since that Wired article, links tagged as "velomobile" have started getting more popular. There's a long jump from linking to a velomobile-related website to dropping thousands of dollars on a velomobile, but nobody will make that jump unless they know about it.


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