School Bus Tricycle in India

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008


Image found on Treehugger

I find this Indian rickshaw converted to a school bus to be particularly bizarre. There’s nothing at all strange or bad about carrying kids to and from school in a trike. In fact WorkCycles sells trikes specifically made for this purpose and they’re becoming quite popular in various cities around the Netherlands. The kids love it. See the examples below:

de redding kdv bakfiets met kinderen in de bak zes kinderen in de bak van een deredding kdv bakfiets Kinderen klimmen uit de bak van een deredding KDV bakfiets

No, what’s bizarre about the Indian bicycle school bus is how is almost seems to have been designed to be unpleasant for the kids yet not out of economic necessity. A couple of the kids inside are smiling but I suspect its just for the camera. The others don’t seem too happy about the situation and who can blame them? I count at least nine kids in the box. There’s no way to make a bike to carry nine kids in spacious comfort but I’m sure it could be better than this.

I just don’t get it. It looks as if the child carrier box has been built especially to fit this rickshaw chassis, as opposed to having been adapted, second-hand from some other vehicle. But maybe that’s not the case – perhaps the box was originally intended to carry livestock such as sheep, a task it seems better suited for.

Otherwise why make such a cramped and enclosed kid carrier in a place that gets so hot? The roof could easily be higher and still carry the backpacks and protect the kids from sun/rain. Why are the windows so tiny… and further covered by a metal cross bar? Would the kids otherwise jump out and run away? I would. Likewise, with no significant additional cost the box could be extended to the side over each wheel to create more space inside.

Call me arrogant but I don’t believe this situation has anything to do with economics. It just seems like lousy design. Can anybody shed more light on these bikes and/or schools and/or children in New Delhi? Are there reasons beyond my narrow-minded, egocentric comprehension that have dictated this design? Is “public school” actually just a euphemism for “jail for juvenile delinquents” in New Delhi? Please help because my head is spinning.

Nihola on its Nose

Sunday, May 18th, 2008


Nihola trikes are nice vehicles and quite rare in Holland but popular in Copenhagen, Denmark. For reasons beyond my comprehension the Danish prefer three-wheeled family transport bikes while the Dutch go mostly for two wheelers. I could write for hours on the subject but to make a long story short WorkCycles customers have overwhelmingly been happiest on two-wheelers so that’s what we sell unless a customer really needs a tricycle. A two-wheeler such as a Bakfiets Cargobike leans and rides like a normal bike. Trikes are always somewhat strange and unpleasant to ride, and that’s probably why we learn to ride on two wheels as young as possible and then almost never go back to three wheels. There are certainly valid reasons to need a trike, though:

  • You need to carry more than would be advisable on two wheels: 4 or 5 kids, loads of bricks or milk or cheese, an ice-cream freezer etc.
  • The bike will mostly stand stationary anyway, such as with a vending bike.
  • One of more of the people who’ll ride the bike aren’t competent cyclists. This can be because they didn’t grow up riding bikes (a foreign au pair) or a function of a balance problem or disability.
  • You’ll often ride with heavy or precious loads on snowy or icy roads. Trikes are easier to handle in slippery conditions.
  • You just happen to like trikes. Who am I to argue?
  • In any case I put this picture up because it demonstrates a problem with some trikes: They can tip onto their noses when the center of gravity moves too far forward of the front axle. Usually this happens while kids are climbing into the trikes from the front.

    On the Nihola its funny to see but really not a problem: Unlike most trikes the Nihola’s front wheels steer independently, as on a car. The frame is thus a single unit so the tail simply sticks in the air and the kids laugh.

    However the Nihola is not the only child carrier trike with the front wheels well behind the front of the box. The Winther Kangaroo, TrioBike and Zigo Leader are also constructed this way.

    winther-kangaroo.jpg triobike.jpg zigo-leader-trike.jpg

    I’ve never seen a Zigo but it appears, like the Nihola, to have independent steering via tie-rods. Reports from my colleagues that the Zigo’s turning circle is very large would tend to confirm this. The Zigo’s child carrying unit sits almost entirely forward of the front axle and the bike is very light so it will almost definitely tip forward when kids climb in the (only) front entrance, unless mom is attendant and holding the rear end down. Fortunately, like the Nihola, the Zigo’s tail will merely stick way up into the air. Annoying but probably not dangerous.

    When this happens to the Winther and TrioBike its not such a humorous occurrence: These trikes have central, axle pivot steering, meaning that the trike steers by turning the front carrier parts of the trike in relation to the rear bicycle part. Thus when the nose goes down and the tail goes up… the rear part of the bicycle will rapidly fall to one side, perhaps tipping the entire bicycle, falling into a parked car or other bicycles, or even falling into the roadway. Both of these bikes have light aluminium frames so it really doesn’t take so much weight to tip them.

    One can argue that a parent should always be present to hold the bike steady but that’s just not how it works in the real world: kids absolutely love playing on and in these bikes, regardless of adult supervision.

    The photo of the Nihola I found in the flickr album of “andjohan”.

    For more reading material about the TrioBike have a look at this earlier post where I used it as an example to complain about how ridiculous and inaccurate online “reviews” can be. The comments that follow get rather bizarrely heated and emotional.

    A shiny day for Workcycles Oktoberfietsfeest

    Thursday, October 11th, 2007

    workcycles oktoberfietsfeest inside

    What can I say? Bummer if you missed it. The fourth annual Workcycles Oktoberfietsfeest* was a great success, with considerable help from the absolutely perfect weather. Global warming has its benefits!

    oktoberfietsfeest workcycles bakfiets Anne BBQ workcycles workcycles party kids in the trash collection trike

    We had a levitation contest, handily won by a young van Eeckhoutte who managed to stay afloat for three minutes 7 seconds before being knocked to the ground by an out of control bakfiets.

    Vegetarian Anne (wo)manned the BBQ, serving up many, many kilos of very non-vegetarian bratwurst, merguez sausages and pannekoeken for the little ones to make a mess of.

    There was much chatting and hobnobbing, perhaps even a few business cards exchanged hands. The bakfiets captains of industry plotted away in their endless quest for world domination.

    Kids who misbehaved were immediately packed into the RC240 trash-collection bakfietsen for punishment laps.

    workcycles henry balloons workcycles oktoberfest bbq band workcycles bakfiets feest stoepkrijt workcycles feest

    Henry generally ignored the adult guests, preferring to entertain the kids with his highly developed balloon folding techniques; Orange turtles, black flowers, red poodles and pink pussycats were all produced and promptly destroyed by the kids.

    The Gitaarduo band played with a number of guest artists. Amongst others they played: Queen’s “I like to ride my bicycle”, Kraftwerk’s “Tour de France”, Pink Floyd’s “Bike” and the theme song to the film “The Bicycle Thief”.

    Once Henry tired of the balloon tricks the kids were left to decorate the street with chalk and ride bikes in heavy traffic.

    workcycles transportfiets feest workcycles transportfiets proefrittren workcycles conference bike at oktober fest

    Even the seven person Conference Bike showed up with Eric Staller, Sietske Tjallingii and a variety of eminent guests.

    *”Oktoberfietsfeest” translates approximately to “Traditional, Bavarian inspired, beer soaked, sausage devouring, autumnal bicycle party”. We take full credit for inventing it and imitators will be mercilessly and endlessly ridiculed for their lack of creativity.