16 December 2011

The Future of Transportation?!


It's 8:44 in the morning here in Copenhagen. It's Friday and the weekend beckons. I've started the day with a laugh. Not a smile or a chuckle. A good, healthy belly laugh. Thanks to our reader Baljeet, in Australia for the link.

You may know our "Car Industry Strikes Back series" here on Copenhagenize, wherein we bikeslap ads from car companies and car insurance companies for targeting bikes in their advertising because they are see as a threat to the market share.

Here's another example, but from an unexpected and highly-amusing corner. It's an appeal to Australian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese and it's endorsed by Terry Dodds, Group Manager Public Works for the City of Ryde, in NSW, Australia. I have no idea about Mr Dodds' involvement apart from his endorsement.

Watch the film. It's actually quite cool for the first two minutes. A great, inspirational build-up until 02:20... then... I laughed out loud.

The whole voiceover is inspiring for the first half.

"Never before has an opportunity presented itself that is so simple it can improve our urban transport problems and our way of life. An opportunity that can save billions of dollars in transport infrastructure. An opportunity that many countries have whole-heartedly adopted and are now enjoying the benefits of. The social benefits, the lifestyle benefits, the environmental benefits. It's an idea that is as simple as the wheel itself. It's the... Personal Mobility Device (PMD)"

THIS is solution for congestion, rampant transport costs, enivironmental concerns?! This is the new wheel? The new sliced bread? The PMD? There is nothing else? That's the gist of this film. The Final Solution for saving the planet.


That's IT? And let's see the studies for these stats, please. How about The Economics of Bike Lanes?

The film is well-made, but I'm sorry... the PMD?

The film makes it sound like countries around the world have vast armadas of these electric contraptions filling their sidewalks. Come on. Seriously. All the effort that went into this film and this is the point? The PMD?

"Forward-thinking countries are embracing this challenge head on. Australia is not."
Mr Albanese is urged to make these PMDs legal on sidewalks in Australia. Because... um... this "archaeic law" restricting them is the only standing in the way between us and total planetary salvation.

Then there are the bits about how bicycles are inferior to these 'devices',

"In Canada, a study showed them to be far superior in stability to bikes and mopeds..."

Can we see that study please?

And this:

"Because they have an electric motor, more people will use PMDs over the physical challenge of a bike. White collar workers don't want to arrive at work sweaty. HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED WHY LESS THAN 1% OF COMMUTERS CYCLE TO WORK?"


Yes, I've wondered. That's what I wonder every day here at work. But for the love Odin, this myth about sweat is starting to piss me off.

Canberra, Australia 1950
Canberra. 1950s. The PMD people don't want you to see this. Or these photos from New South Wales. Or these from Queensland.

Yes... we know that. But it's not because PMDs aren't allowed on sidewalks.

"Never before has an opportunity presented itself that is so simple it can improve our urban transport problems and our way of life. An opportunity that can save billions of dollars in transport infrastructure"... Yes there has been an opportunity. The bicycle transformed human society more quickly and more efficiently than any other invention in human history. And it's happening again, all over the world.

Send lawyers, bikes and money
White collar workers - like all Citizen Cyclists - take it easy when they ride.

At the risk of sounding like Will Smith in I, Robot...

Listen. Fine with PMDs, e-bikes and all these vehicles. Fine that they are a supplement to the existing bicycle market. But please... let's keep it real. The bicycle has served us well for 125 years and will continue to do so. The massive marketing budget of the e-bike/PMD industry risks tipping the balance. We risk telling an entire generation who are just now returning to the bicycle that a motor is the only way to go and that 'old-fashioned' bicycles are 'hard work'. Despite 125 years of solid evidence to the contrary. This film is like so much of the marketing of e-bikes and other vehicles. It's a follow the money tale that paints a picture that is distorted and not a little ridiculous.


PMDs and Segways don't fight obesity and lifestyle illnesses. Bicycles do. We're still waiting for the studies that show the lessened effect on public health that e-bikes have - compared to bicycles.
PMDs and e-bikes are still largely coal/nuclear powered, depending where you live, so spare us the preachy 'oh so green' over-exaggerations.
Then there is the question of battery disposal and lithium.
And so on, and so on.

I don't give a toss whether Mr Albanese changes the laws regarding PMD usage on sidewalks. There will never be enough of them to matter. This film, however, highlights how the bicycle continues to irritate people who want to make money off of alternative vehicles.

You don't target something unless it is a real threat. The bicycle - in all it's simplicity - is the tool that will transform society and our cities. History is repeating itself.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see the funding of this expensive promo. There seems to be a second agenda. When does an ebike become a motor vehicle? How separate should pedestrians and wheeled people be?
what is the weight limit for a PMD? Sydney needs more bike corridors, motorists to accept bikes(and visa versa) and freedom to choose your attire (including helmets). We are up there in obesity stakes and carbon footprint so on ya bike.
Bud

Lars Barfred said...

My jaw literally dropped to the floor, making an awful, when they said PMD for the first time, I thought it was so obvious, that this was about bikes as the solution. This is such joke, I am not even convinced its not from Saturday Night Live.

Behooving Moving said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Behooving Moving said...

But wait, someone with a modicum of brains, thought Australians could be fooled by all this. They thought we would believe the Northern Hemisphere is buzzing with these things (well, actually, parts of the US do have lots of segways). They thought Australians would believe bicycle lanes would not raise the bike share beyond 1%, because of the whole sweatiness problem. They took Australians for fools, and I'm afraid to say, they are largely correct. I live here with these morons, and hear the whiny pants reasons why they couldn't possibly cycle, why they need more parking, etc etc.. And this country produces so many articulate and active bike bloggers, that a blogger on the other side of the world is doing more to counter our own home grown nonsense, than anyone here.

Will said...

Are you sure that ad is the real deal? It seems like a spoof. Maybe it's a terrible late-night infomercial.

In any case, I can say with some authority (having visited many of the 48 states in the US that legally permit the PMDs) that I've never seen a single one of them before in my life.

So, to state the obvious, despite them being legal here in the US, people still prefer bicycles.

Not surprising.

Thanks for the laugh, PMD company!

Ryan said...

I thought one of the funnier parts was when they said "forward thinking countries" and the Canadian flag was shown. Perhaps 10 years ago we were, but far from it now.

Any ways, I to would like to see this study done in Canada, because quite honestly...I've never heard nor seen one of these things before.

Vocus Dwabe said...

Here we go again: the e-bike or some derivative thereof being described as "the transport solution of the future". It's a bit like Schnitzler's Austrian lieutenant assuring the girl "you are my sweet little fiancée: and you will always be my sweet little fiancée."

I live in quite an avant-garde (and also quite flat) part of south-east England, and since 2007 I've counted a grand total of six e-bikes: two of them converted back to heavy and ungainly pedal cycles. As for Segways, I've never ever seen one except as a child's toy. Quite simply, the batteries are heavy, they soon lose their ability to hold a charge, and they're ruinously expensive to replace even if the manufacturer is still in business.

Next promo film: "The Pogo Stick - Personal Mobility for the 21st Century"

PS. Surely it can't have been filmed in Australia: only two people were wearing helmets. Or does that only apply to push bikes?

Edward said...

@Behooving Moving - where in the USA do you see all these phantom segways? I live in NYC and only see the occasional tourist hovering around on those ridiculous contraptions.

Andrew said...

It's new, it's exciting, its used all over Europe. It's the UTD the Urban Transportation Device. Not only will it save billions of dollars for the economy it will also save billions in health care costs. It's old, it's easy, proven technology it's good value, it's already legal. It's called a bike. Save money and have buns of steel. Added bonus feature, yes it's easier to cycle in high heels then walk in them. So boys and girls get on the bike Granny cycled down to the Cricket Club dance when she met Grandad.

Anonymous said...

I live in Orlando, Florida and work at Disney World. Our company purchased a number of segways a few years ago and after many injuries due to differences in surfaces upon which they were driven, their instability was proven to be too great of a liability. Some of the injuries were from being thrown face forward against the pavement in a split second resulting in severe facial trauma that a helmet didn't prevent. They no longer exist here.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. And yes, THE SWEAT ISSUE!!! But I guess it comes from the seemingly incurable way of many people of seeing cycling: as a sport. You have to cycle as fast as you can, aparently. Not just fast, as I do on my semi-racer commuter here in Copenhagen - yeah, I can at times get a teeny weeny little bit sweaty if I'm in an awful hurry, and my pulse will hit 120/minut, but COME ON!!!, most times I'm perfectly fresh and cool when I arrive at my destinations - as are countless other bike commuters covering distances up to 10 km. Even in the midst of summer, in a heat wave.

Anonymous said...

Yes the right questions but not the right answer. Are motorized vehicles automatically more acceptable than self sufficient ones?

The story on Disney's use of Segways referenced by Anon should be examined. Lawsuits of use:
http://www.disunplugged.com/2011/04/04/settlement-approved-in-walt-disney-world-segway-lawsuit/

Jack

Bicilenta said...

In Spain? I haven't seen any of that ridiculous stand-if-you-can artifacts here. The only advantage over bicycles is that you can enter buildings riding them and get into the lift without getting off of it ¡Amazing! ;)

SteveL said...

None of these PMD users are wearing helmets! If it was rolled out in australia, step 1 would be helmets, step 2 hi-viz, and step three some kind of registration!

Abhishek said...

We could lobby to pass a law that all people riding a motorized PMD must wear a helmet. Let's see how that helmet goes with a white-collared executive's suit.

Abhishek said...

One step closer to this

Paul Martin said...

Unbelievable... but somehow a typically Australian take on what the 'solution' is. WTF is wrong with just a plain bicycle? Only in Australia.

We are very good at dismissing proven solutions (ie. bicycles) as Australia is 'so very different' and needs special solutions. We're constantly reinventing the wheel here and it is costing us dearly... it's pathetic.

They use this same stupid argument for why we can't have bicycle infrastructure as 'conditions are different' blah blah blah...

So where do they expect all these PMDs to ride?? On the footpath? Ha! I can't wait to see the footpath congestion & jams from these sum devices... and if they ever are allowed on bikeways I'll do my best to deflate the tyres on every single one of them...

Grrr... As for pedelecs, if you can move them without any effort then they're technically scooters... and I don't like that.

Getting people out of cars is a good thing, but not onto device that cannot be propelled at all by human power.

For all their talk of 'being tough and rugged', modern Australians are lazy, fat and wimps. A few drops of rain and they're scurrying for shelter; a little bit of sweat and they suddenly need a shower...

What happened to the Australians of the past? Oh, that's right... they've been out-bred by the 'safety nannies' and cottonwool brigade.

Ugh...

As a 'country' it is a lovely place to live. Pity it has to be shared with so many dimwits.

johann said...

I doubt the alleged stability of these contraptions. Looks to me like a well-placed pothole would send the pilot face-first into the street. I'll take a bike, thanks.

Anonymous said...

My fair city has unfortunately bought a few Segways for parking enforcement. They were VERY heavily marketed to cities in the US. We also have parking enforcement on bicycles and I totally fail to see the rationale other than intense marketing.

Tim said...

I don't know about a PMD but I would like to make a case for my electric assist bike. I ride 19km each way and have elevation changes of 200m each way in 45 minutes (28 km/hr average speed). Having the E bike lets me ride every day faster than normal and with less effort. I still work up a good sweat though as I am pedaling the entire way, typically standing up for uphill stretches. In this last year I biked 4,000 km on my E bike.

Keep in mind that not everyone has a less than 10 km ride on relatively flat ground.

Now as for forward thinking Canada it is illegal to use a Segway on the road or the sidewalks in my province (British Columbia) so I think the video is incorrect there.

Adrienne Johnson said...

It is a video with a wah-wah guitar in the background. You can not sell anything other than 70's blacksploitation movies with wah-wah guitars. It's a fact.

Anonymous said...

What a sad video...I'm an aussie from Melbourne and after spending time in Europe, I have come to realise how much fun and independence bike commuting can bring. I had never thought of riding my bike wearing 'normal' clothes (something I do quite often now) and I have even tried to adopt the Copenhagen way of life. Let me just say this is a real challenge here. Contrary to the perception of Australians being relaxed and easy-going, the reality is that it's a spoilt land with lots of impatient, wealth-obsessed, uncultured bogans that drive large cars and give you little respect on the road, particularly if you are >10kms out from the city. (If you are not familiar with the term 'bogan' -check it on wikipedia). After a couple of close shaves, I only ride on the limited bike paths available. Needless to say it is a complete nanny state and the helmet law is a joke. It often means that the bike stays in the garage while I use the car. I came back here for family reasons and if it were not for them, I would not be staying.

Kenneth said...

@anonymous from Melbourne: I wish there were more of you around.
Anyway in general this video can only be used for anthropologist as an example of how Australian's always seems to believe or be led to believe that they can do things smarter than the rest of the world not realising than the rest of the world is doing something complete different. The most annoying thing about Australia is that adopting best practices and using common sense so rarely happens.

Anonymous said...

From the splash screen on the video and reading the first paragraph, i was thought the video was a spoof and unicycles were the solution. I was bitterly disappointed when I watched the actual video.

Anonymous said...

while sweat is a bad excuse for not riding it is a fact of life, you sweat just walking a short distance when humidity is >90% and the temperatures in the mid or high thirties. Add to that the helmet you are forced to put on your head which stops your scalp being a heat exchange and does get pretty hot.
Would you wear a hat in your Copenhagen 'heat waves'?

examinedspoke said...

Actually, I would hope this campaign succeeds. How much nicer to have PMDs on the road than cars! The more PMDs we get, the more likely it is that we'll have decent infrastructure for all slow-moving transportation devices.

Har said...

I liven in Holland and though we have e-bikes, they're still a minority. As for those PMD's, I've seen them and they're nice gadgets, but why bother with a high-tech 'solution' when there's a proven low-tech one available? Besides, there are some very efficient (low sweat output) push-bikes for sale and they suit most people fine.

Corey said...

I'm guessing this thing goes more than 12mph. If so, it's clearly much less safe than cycling. As mentioned, this is Australia. If they force you to wear a helmet on a bicycle, they'll make you wear combat gear on one of these! Though, considering the lack of cargo capacity, you'll likely already be accustomed to wearing a 50-pound backpack.

Lachlan said...

The final sentence answers all your questions.

It is a corporate video produced by one local council in Sydney. Not a tv commerical. It wants the Gov't to allow these devices as another transport option in its region.

The report and info about the vid is available on the Council's website - not hard to find.

Crashion said...

All this talk of PMD is enough to give me PMT.

Matt said...

Sydney has huge transport problems - This morning they just announced a $400 million upgrade to the M5 motorway elsewhere in Sydney and unique amongst Australian cities they aren't trying to grow the number of train passengers because it is at peak capacity now.

While yes PMDs (a cringeworthy acronym, I'm still vomiting 10 years after hearing SUV) are a bit of techno-wank, I do think it is a good idea to change the law to allow them on footpaths. I mightn't want to ride one, but if some people do, and it would help, then why not?

Of course they should remove the mandatory bike helmet law at the same time, and as a user of an e-bike, they should up the 200W limit to something like 500W. My 250W e-bike would be illegal if I took it home to Australia.

Then they should spend $400 million on real transport initiatives such as building more cycle paths and secure bike parking at train stations.

That $400 million is apparently going to do nothing for congestion on the M5. Well it might be time to get rid of a few of the cars then.

I think PMDs are compatible with an increased presence of bicycles in the city. All non-car technologies should be encouraged before cars.

Anonymous said...

I live in Australia and there is a problem with distance of journeys and complete dependance on the car. So these PMD things can serve a roll but e-bikes are likely to get cycling going in Australia. The ordinary bike is the beautiful thing though and the ridiculous disparagement of them in this film is..well ridiculous.
john

Anonymous said...

"Would you wear a hat in your Copenhagen 'heat waves'?"

Well, yes. I actually do. Not allways, but often. Mostly because of the sun, of course.

ZA_SF said...

Have you heard of the latest in urban transportation technology? Shoes. Fantastic things - you can get everywhere with them!

David said...

Re: "But for the love Odin, this myth about sweat is starting to piss me off.

And: "And yes, THE SWEAT ISSUE!!! But I guess it comes from the seemingly incurable way of many people of seeing cycling: as a sport....continued"

I do not see the absolute relevance of being able to cycle in office clothes "up to 10km" in a city like Copenhagen and arrive most times "perfectly fresh and cool" (even in a "heat wave") to a cyclist in a sub tropical city like brisbane in australia.

I might start a blog suggesting the citizens of Copenhagen stop wearing those ridiculous warm clothes in winter as surely they can wear shorts and a t-shirt and go to the beach all winter like me ;)