Thursday, 29 November 2007

Bikes, Segways and conquering the Universe

I grew up in North Nottinghamshire, and loved riding my bike. Now I live in Sheffield, I don't even own one. Two obvious reasons - too many cars, and, more to the point, too many hills. I hate cycling up hills. Last year a friend persuaded me to cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco because he told me that once you got onto the bridge it was all downhill. He lied, and I nearly died. So did he when I'd recovered. I was therefore interested to read an account from one of our Campus Wardens about his experience with an electric bike. Our Campus Wardens do a great job of patrolling the campus, checking on car parks and cars, and generally helping to keep the campus clean and tidy. As those of you from Sheffield will know, the campus is spread out, and has a lot of hills, so they have to cover large areas. If they're responding to an incident, it can take them some time to get there. So, our Room and Parking Services section have been trialling a Powabyke. The report has been excellent, with the warden being able to travel over large parts of the campus quickly and safely, even negotiating some quite steep hills with only moderate pedal assist. The bike also kept its charge well - it plugs into a normal socket, and only appears to need charging every few days. This sounds like something the University should be promoting and I can see many areas where it will provide a quick, energy efficient way of travelling around the campus.

Another device to provide this sort of transport, is the Segway. These have never really taken off over here, but in the US you see them a lot, especially in huge conference centres, where there are large, flat distances to be covered. It can be quite a surprise to see one come whizzing past you. They can get up quite a speed - up to 12mph, and you can carry quite a lot of stuff on them. The police also use them. They work by changing your balance - to move forward, you lean forward; to stop, you lean back. To steer, you lean left or right. They're also very energy efficient. I rather fancy one, but I'm not sure if they'd cope with Sheffield hills. They certainly don't cope with stairs. Reminds me of the Dalek joke......

"Well this certainly buggers our plans to conquer the Universe....."


Owen said...

You could also consider the 'Easyglider' which got a good review on Channel 5s Gadget Show recently§ion=Features

Ironically, the Segway development actually came out of a project to develop a wheelchair that would climb stairs (

Chris Sexton said...

Just had a look at it - looks a bit harder to ride to me, and more for tricks, rather than just transport, but interesting. Thanks for the info about the Segway - shame it can't climb stairs!

pj said...

As you might expect in a country with more and more state control it is illegal to use a Segway on a public footpath or road see here

Chris Sexton said...

That probably explains why they've not taken of over here!

Chris Sexton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Sexton said...

hmm, is it one rule for us, and one for the police?


Glad they're being used though!

Simon said...

Hmmm. Amazing how some people can turn anything into a political rant. You can just imagine what those people who feel intimidated by pavement cyclists and skateboarders are going to say about having a segway hurtling towards them at 12mph on a crowded Sheffield pavement.

Anyway this is what the campus warden who trialled the electric bike said about it.


Recently, after much internet research, I suggested to my dept that we should look into obtaining an electric bike for getting around the campus. As I am employed as a warden, my area covers the high ground around Northumberland Rd, Crookesmoor and Psychology to name a few. After submitting my request to david hughes, we managed (with thanks to to Rob at energy and environment) to get a free trial using the 21 speed powabyke. The results have been remarkable. This bike caters for those who may consider themselves unfit to cycle long distances using a conventional bike (like me) or getting uphill or even maybe consider themselves a bit lazy:-). I have taken the bike up to Law with only moderate pedal assist using the motor and I was not out of breath or sweating on arrival. Taking a safe route, I ventured down the Elmfield driveway and cut across the back of the all weather pitch to get to Dam House and Psychology. Again it was made easy using the motor on pedal assist and was fun to just use the motor only at times. This bike even got me from the sports club back up the elmfield driveway with moderate pedal assist and as we know that is a steep driveway!!. For those who have not used a powabyke or similar brand, it certainly gives you plenty of shift at traffic lights over a normal bike. Going down Glossop rd onto West street felt safe and confident. Leaving the Arts tower I took the bike up Winter St and then onto elmfield via the park. You can get to most of the campus using the main roads to a minimum. All round this is the sort of bike the University should be promoting. The battery on the powerbyke stayed charged for every shift I used it and I still had at least 30 charge by the time i finished and put it away in storage every afternoon. That covered a lot of ground so think of this, if the byke was only used for short trips, it would probably need charging up just once for the week for a matter of pennies! The charger plugs into a normal socket and charges overnight. I was able to attend to urgent calls within 90 seconds rather than a five to ten minute walk and I was onto a reported sighting of a suspicious man within a minute at dam house on thursday. It was amusing to be told as I passed some people as they shouted that was my idea well... if it was you didnt do anything about it did you.. was my thought:-)

I hadnt been on a bike for 30 years but I was suprised how well noticed I was by traffic who gave me room and gave way at times. The only problem with this old type design was the weight of it being steel frame and lead battery, but the latest powabyke is alloy frame and I believe Lithium battery which saves a few kilos! they also do various designs to suit. Regarding getting uphill the ebike company claim to have a model that can climb up to 18 degrees, which if true, would beat the powabyke, however the ebikes go up to a very expensive scale.

Rather than just tell people we may or not have some bikes now or in the future, it would be much more beneficial to have a demonstration day, perhaps inviting the makers themselves where small groups of volunteers were taken on rides around the campus. Also if this was the way forward these sort of bikes would need housing in a special cabin or hut.

If this bike could be promoted this way, people would sit up and take note, as the main thing people will think about is how safe is it to ride such a bike? They wouldn't know unless we showed them, perhaps in the octagon or on the concourse one day. I have had the bike since 16/11/07 and started taking it out this monday and I haven't fallen of it yet:-). Our dept has already said yes to having one and I look forward to us having our own.


Here comes the official quote:

"As Chair of the University Cycle Forum I fully support this initiative which will greatly enhance the Campus Wardens mobility and fitness without greatly increasing the university's environmental footprint. "

or some such...

Incidentally the bike used was borrowed from Rotherham Council.

mark said...

Electric Bicycles and Electric Scooters

Elmo The Electric Bike and Electric Scooter Guy

This is an excellent blog for electric bicycles. There are not too many around like this. Thanks for making this such an interesting subject. Oh, by the way, Wired Magazine has a great article on hybrid cars this month. (Jan 2008 issue).

God Bless,

electric bikes said...

lol, the 2 bike looks funny