YikeBike, the first of the minifarthings

foldedyike250.jpgIn the tradition of the Segway and Dominic Hargreaves' folding mountain bike, comes the Yike. Like the Segway, it's a very compact, electric way of getting around. Like Hargreaves' invention, it folds into a compact form. However it's smaller and lighter than both of them. It weighs less than 10kg, and you can carry it in a shoulder bag.

Yike is the first in a series of possible minifarthing designs, including pedal only, pedal assist, and a high-speed version that could go in a cruise-controlled convoy for safety.

The yike design was inspired by the following design questions:

  • What is the simplest way to get from A to B with the aid of a machine?
  • What is the smallest wheel you can have to get a stable, safe, comfortable ride?
  • Can you make something small enough to be able to go with you anywhere in a city?
  • Wonder if we could make a unicycle dramatically easier to ride and fold?

Two other questions, however, are up in the air, especially for Canadians: what times of year are suitable for riding, and where will you be able to ride it?

In Canada, some of us like to commute by bicycle in the winter. The yike FAQ is equivocal about the possibilities for this:

Like a bicycle the YikeBike works best in mild climates, but with care can be used any time you would use a bicycle. It is designed as a commuting device and we strongly advise you do not to try racing or mountain biking on a YikeBike.

The ZENN electric car initiative was forced to a new strategy of supplying the guts of other electric cars because they couldn't solve the problem of where their car could be driven. Few jurisdictions in Canada would license this low-speed vehicle for city driving. A similar problem has plagued the Segway: was it appropriate for sidewalks? For bikepaths? No one seemed to know, and this kind of legal limbo can be troubling for exciting new ventures like this.

The Yike FAQ says the following:

The YikeBike is different from other vehicles and we do not know how countries and local authorities will classify it in terms of legislation, licensing, insurance, and helmet laws. You can ride the YikeBike on private property. Whether you could also ride it on public streets or bikepaths or footpaths remains to be seen, and if you choose to do so it is at your own risk. We have designed the YikeBike to be safer than a bicycle - with anti-skid braking, speed limited to 25 km/hour, turn-signals, and upright riding position, so our hope is that authorities will recognize the inherent safety and classify the YikeBike as a bicycle or e-bike. If you agree, please make your voice heard with your local or national authorities.

Hopeful or canny? Time will tell. Minifarthings, as a class of vehicle, are not positioned as bicycles:
The mini-farthing does not fit within bicycle specifications, but we have designed it to be safer and more manoeuvrable than a bicycle so it should be able to be used anywhere you use a bicycle.

Perhaps they are hoping, as with the Segway, that it will eventually be used in places where the bicycle cannot go. One can envision both streets and sidewalks being contested spaces for this kind of vehicle. Sorting out travel privileges for the emerging class of sustainable vehicles seems like an great challenge for policy makers of a world changing bent.

The promotional video for the yikebike depicts people yiking on both streets and sidewalks, and carrying it confidently into an office building. Certainly this is in line with the lyrics for the sparkly Hera tune backing the video: "I'm about to go where nobody goes, and you're about to be where nobody's been—and it's about to seem impossibly real..."

The fold up bike becomes the fold up... well, you'll see!

Tip of the hat to Carlene Parkinson

See other WorldChanging Canada articles on cycling in Canada:

Reason to Dream
By Stefanie Bowles

On-street rumble strips for bike paths—removing barriers to active transportation in the Winter City
By Rod Edwards

Bixi: the Bicycle-Taxi for a Bright Green City
By Daniel Haran

Moving House(s) By Pedal-Power
By Mark Tovey

Have canoe, will cycle: world heritage sustainable commuting
By Mark Tovey

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