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Impact of bicycles Superbike - home

For almost the entire history of bicycles there have been two uses: transport and leisure. Worldwide the use of the bicycle varies. In the US, for example, bicycles are almost exclusively for leisure; in Europe and Asia, bicycles are a prime form of transport.

What do you see as the main use of bicycles in Australia?

Effects of engineering innovation in transport on people's lives
A bicycle is an efficient and economical means of transport,

…can travel 150 km on a normal touring cycle using no more energy than would be needed to walk 30 km. The bicycle is designed to allow the use of muscular energy in the most economic way. The cyclist remains seated, which saves energy because the leg muscles do not have to support the body or to raise and lower it at each step, as they do when walking. The thigh muscles, the strongest in the body, are used efficiently to produce a downward force on one pedal, which simultaneously raises the other leg without any further effort. The arms rest on the handlebars and help to support the trunk. This relieves back muscles, which normally support the trunk. By a combination of leg, back and arm movements, the cyclist can briefly exert a force of at least one and a half times their own weight.

A bicycle must be strong enough to carry comparatively heavy loads, yet it must be light and easy to propel. It can carry a load ten times its own weight, which makes it the strongest machine of its size ever built, while someone riding a bicycle uses energy more efficiently than any other animal, or any machine yet invented.

In the Western world the invention of the internal combustion engine and the motor-car has made people more mobile than ever and brought about social changes even more sweeping than those caused by the bicycle. In less developed countries the cycle is still the chief means of private transport. Every year more bicycles are being used, and bicycle manufacture is big business: over forty million machines are produced each year.

The bicycle:

  • does not pollute the atmosphere
  • makes little demand on the world's scarce raw materials and fuel
  • provides healthy exercise
  • costs relatively little to buy and hardly anything at all to maintain.
    (Low, 1977: 53)

Appropriate technology
Technology is an important part of the lives of people in all societies. Products, systems and environments are typically valued for how they work (their function) and how they look (their aesthetics). Appropriate technology involves considering the impacts on and benefits for society and the environment of the design, production and use of the technology. Appropriate technology is defined as 'technology which, in its creation and use, meets human needs while considering the short- and long-term consequences for the society and the environment.' (Board of Studies, 1996: 9)

When considering the appropriateness of a design think about the following questions:

  • Who has designed it and for whom?
  • Who benefits? Why?
  • Upon whom or what does it impact and why?
  • Who or what is most important and why?
  • Is there another way it can be done better?

1. The car replaced the bicycle as the main form of personal transport in many countries. What impact has this had on air pollution? What have governments done to reduce air pollution in recent years?
2. The Superbike has been designed for the track and competition. Is it appropriate to use such a bike for personal transport purposes?


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