John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Is this the hippest bicycle in the world?
Philippe Starck's design career has been all over the place, what with his rocket-ship juicers, submarine yachts, New Mexican spaceport and this profoundly painful-looking chair for director Wim Wenders. It's no surprise, then, that his latest project hails out of left field: It's a line of chic scooter-cycle hybrids for a new bike-sharing program in Bordeaux, France.
Bordeaux's been on the forefront of the bike-sharing movement since at least 2010, when it launched the ambitious "Vcub" program that basically melded bicycles into the mass-transit system. (Just look at all these stations!) Two years ago, officials decided to expand the program by stocking it with 3,000 hypothetical, "ideal" urban bikes. This being a socialist country, they started soliciting ideas online from Bordeaux's populace, winding up with about 300 crowd-sourced design suggestions.
The city then tapped the onetime interior designer for president François Mitterrand to build this ultimate ride. So how'd Starck do? Pretty good, if you like a bike with some heft. With a thick frame painted matte gray and caution-tape-yellow tires, the "Pibal" cycle initially comes off as a whacky construction vehicle. The utilitarian presentation makes sense when you understand it's doubling as a light-duty scooter, with a flat "stool" below the pedals that riders can rest their feet on during downhill cruising or use as a one-legged pushing platform in crowded spaces. There's also a basket in the front that looks big enough to carry a squished-up passenger (although that's probably not advisable).
You can see several photos and design renderings of the "Pibal" over at If It's Hip, It's Here. That outlet reports that Bordeaux's residents are allegedly "happy to have their very own custom-created public bike," because they "no longer need to feel snubbed by metropolises like Paris and Copenhagen who got their own custom-created public bicycles a while ago." Even better, they'll get to ride these Peugot-manufactured cycles for free for a while due to corporate sponsorship.
Starck himself seems chuffed about the bike, saying:
Just as the pibale [baby eel], undulating and playing with the flow, Pibal is an answer to new urban ergonomics, thanks to a lateral translation which allows oneself to pedal long distances, to scoot in pedestrian areas and to walk next to it, carrying a child or any load on its platform. It only has the beauty of its intelligence, of its honesty, of its durability. Rustic and reliable, it’s a new friend dedicated to the future Bordeaux expectations.
Photos courtesy of the press team of Starck.com.