Observation Village Bike or Politician?

The public bike: it’s identity has matured since the days of the village bicycle.

An urban icon,  tasked to both serve its people and represent the community to which they belong, the public bike is now the politician of the two-wheeled species.

They are designed to embody the  ideals of its city, and withstand the imminent beatings of communal servitude.

I’m a lover of design that reflects the community in which it exists: so in terms of adaptability, different environments and lifestyles, how does the current public bike

succeed in serving and representing diverse urban community?

First off, let’s identify public bike design criteria: these bikes have to be safe, intuitive, theft/vandalism resistant, dockable, and dispursable, but they must also wear the hat of city representative: serving as icons of municipal progress.

Now, let’s identify the current general design strategy: many bike share systems employ bike designs that embody a ‘neutral design’ aesthetic: instantly identifiable yet unobtrusive;  a quirky workhorse chic that recalls the spirit of the Checker Cab . ( I’m a car nut, so I still think in automotive references)

Interesting outcomes of ‘neutral’ design aesthetic: In several cases, these bikes end up serving as a canvas for their community, carrying private art (ads),  public art (vandalism), simultaneously representing the vision of green mobility, and public commentary of the existing state of urban mobility.

My question: there is room in the urban environment for public art: is there a place within the urban environment for a more artistic take on the public bike?

Public art is a form of communication, identity and community: often commissioned by the government, but authored by an individual.

Currently, for many reasons, some socio-economic classes don’t identify with the bike share system as it is.

So, my design challenge is: Could re-thinking the public bike design strategy, to incorporate more of a ‘public art’ approach, help make bike share relate to non-users?

How would this effect manufacturing, user experience, and adaptability?

by Gabriel Wartofsky