WorstPlans.com updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible plans and ideas!

Category: Bicycles

If you obey the demands of this phone app, you’ll never have to wait at a stoplight again! If you are a pedestrian, anyway. Might also work for bicyclists and drivers!

Background:

In most American cities, four-way intersections with stoplights are the most common form of traffic control.

The issue:

As a pedestrian, these intersections are frustrating: if the stoplights are not synchronized, you’ll randomly encounter red lights while walking from block to block. But even when lights are synchronized, they are synchronized for car driving speeds. Thus, at normal walking speed, a pedestrian will inevitably spend a large fraction of travel time waiting at crosswalks for the light to turn green.

Although a pedestrian can increase or decrease their walking speed, it is difficult to select an optimal speed without knowing exactly when the light will change.

Proposal:

Fortunately, a phone app can easily measure walking speed and distance to the next traffic light, and then display a recommended walking speed that will get a pedestrian to the light when it is green (Figure 1).

2-stoplight-timer-app

Fig. 1: Since this phone knows how far the next light is and exactly when the light will change, it can recommend a walking pace that will get its owner to the light while the light is green. The green / gray arrow in the middle of the screen is a “progress bar,” showing the pedestrian’s current position relative to the previous intersection (base of arrow) and the next light (tip of arrow).

 

Using this app, a person can enjoy both a more leisurely pace at lights they’d miss anyway, and can walk ever-so-slightly faster (Figure 2) in order to make it through intersections just before the light turns red.

1-stoplight-timer

Fig. 2: In the top example (A), a pedestrian walks at a uniform pace that causes them to have to wait at two of the three lights. In the bottom example (B), the pedestrian is using our new app, and adjusts their walking speed to hit all the lights while they are green. Recommended walking speed is shown by the orange bar at the very bottom.

Conclusion:

This type of app would probably work for drivers and bicyclists as well (ideally through audio instructions).

PROS: Encourages walking in cities, thus improving national cardiovascular fitness.

CONS: Users of this app might wait at fewer lights, but would be at higher risk of being run over by a car / bicyclist / steamroller while distracted by the app’s various recommendations and statistics.

Make your carpool / ride-sharing commute even safer with this amazing plan to add strobe lights to your car—legally! Bicyclists love this one weird tip!

The issue:

One ever-present hazard for bicyclists is the possibility of being “doored”—hit by a suddenly-opened driver’s side door of a parked car.

A similar issue confounds carpool passengers: when exiting a full vehicle, the driver’s-side passenger must open the door directly into traffic (since they cannot exit on the curb side). This presents the obvious risk of being hit by a car that is swerving around the temporarily-parked carpool vehicle, as shown in Figure 1.

1-crash-scenario

Fig. 1: A) The ride-sharing vehicle (blue) is stopped in the farthest-curbside lane, and a passenger is about to exit. A fast approaching-car (red) in the same lane is about to swerve around the parked car. B) The passenger opens the door (purple) and will step out into traffic. C) The red car collides with the open door.

There may be a lot of blame to assign in the scenario in Figure 1 (“the passenger should have waited longer before opening the door” or “the red car shouldn’t have gone around the stopped car”), but it’s easy to see how it would occur without any egregious negligence.

Proposal:

In order to make it obvious that a car door may be opening soon (i.e., that there is an occupant associated with a door of a stopped or nearly-stopped car), the following is proposed:

  • A row of lights are placed on the edges of the car, near the doors. These lights must be easily visible from behind the vehicle.
  • When the door handle is operated, these edge lights flash (see Figure 2). This would provide ~1–2 additional seconds for a driver or bicyclist to react before hitting the door.
  • Optionally, weight sensors in the car seats could detect whether or not someone is likely to exit via a specific door (if there are no passengers in the car, there is no reason for any of the lights to flash except for the ones on the driver’s door). Weight sensors are already used to decide whether or not to deploy passenger air bags, so this wouldn’t be a huge engineering challenge.
2-warning-lights

Fig. 2: Flashing lights on the edge of the car can notify other drivers and bicyclists that a door might be opening soon (or is actively being opened).

Conclusion:

If you own an LED manufacturing plant, you should lobby your local government to make this feature mandatory, and try to avoid letting anyone do any scientific research to determine whether or not it’s actually effective.

PROS: Creates a new source of revenue for the LED light industry.

CONS: It is likely that there would be so many false positives—flashing lights for stopped cars at nearly every intersection, for example—that everyone would tune out these ubiquitous and uninformative warnings.

Easily win the Tour de France every year thanks to this bicycle secret: there’s no law that says you CAN’T enter the race with multiple people on a bike! [*]

[*] But you would be disqualified from the race.

Background:

Bicycle races have stagnated due to their archaic one-rider-per-bike format.

Proposal:

To usher in a new era of bicycle-based excitement add variety to bicycle races, an “entrant” to the race could be re-defined as a single bicycle, rather than a single person.

Then, participants would be able to use any style of bike (and number of riders) that they felt was suitable for a specific stage of the race. Figure 1 shows a couple of relatively conservative options.

Although this may sound like a radical change, it is based on sound historical precedent:

  1. Olympic rowing has a category for eight people in a boat (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight_(rowing)), so there is no reason that something similar couldn’t work for bicycling as well.
  2. There are existing tandem bicycles for six (or more) people: https://www.google.com/search?q=6+person+tandem+bike . You could order one today!
2-regular-vs-tandem.png

Fig. 1: The tandem bike on the right has a similar rolling resistance and wind profile as the single-occupant bicycle, but double the power output from the riders.

It might turn out a “single-bike peloton” made up of a dozen or more riders would be the best race strategy.

Or perhaps the ideal bike would be able to pivot in the middle (like an accordion bus), with more than one steer-able wheel, as shown in Figure 2.

3-4x-and-8x-bikes.png

Fig. 2: Top: a four-seater tandem bike. Bottom: An eight-person articulated bike that can bend around corners, which would help on especially winding roads.

Conclusion:

This is clearly the future of bicycle-related sports. You should lobby some extremely-corrupt sports regulatory organization and get this change implemented! (You will probably need a lot of money and/or incriminating evidence in order to succeed.)

PROS: Re-invigorates a hundred-plus-year-old sport.

CONS: Greatly increases the options for catastrophic bike collisions. May make passing nearly impossible.

Cease your unforgivable indolence! Motivate yourself to exercise with this new kind of stationary bike! Locksmiths hate it!

Background:

It can be hard to motivate yourself to exercise—especially since you know you can always put it off until later.

Proposal:

But what if we could set up a situation where you would have to exercise?

Specifically:

  1. You purchase (1) a stationary bicycle and (2) a special type of heavy-duty safe (Figure 1).
  2. You then place an important object inside the safe (like your cell phone, wallet, or keys). This should be something that you’ll need soon (not like, a Ming vase).
  3. In order to open the safe, you have to pedal the bike at least (say) 20 miles. This is measured by a gear on the side of the safe.

pedal-safe

Fig. 1: Even if you know the correct combination to the safe (right), the bike (left) absolutely must be pedaled a certain distance before the safe will open.

If you want to get your phone / keys / wallet, you’ll have to put in the required time on the exercise bike—there’s just no way around it!

 

 

items

Fig. 2: Example items that you might put into your pedaling-required-safe to motivate yourself.

Conclusion:

The main benefit of this system is that it’s always easy for a person to say “I should exercise in the future” and lock their keys and wallet in the safe.

Then, even if their self-motivation wanes and they don’t feel like exercising later, they won’t be able to back out!

This system could be extended beyond just exercise bikes: perhaps the safe could be connected to a pull-up bar (“Do 10 pull-ups before this safe will open”), or to a page counter on a book (“Read 50 pages of this book before the safe will open.”)

pedal-safe-schematic

Fig. 3: Schematic view of the safe. Maybe this image would be in the manual or something.

 

PROS: This idea will help promote exercise and increase self-discipline and civic virtue.

CONS: If there’s an emergency and you need to drive somewhere quickly, you’ll be out of luck!

Use common mechanical attachments with a standard bicycle using this one weird tip. Also, you won’t believe what happened next.

Background: A person can generate on the order of ~100W on a stationary bicycle for a half hour or so, for a total of 0.05kWh. This would be enough to power a space heater for about 3 minutes, or a low-draw 10 watt LED light for 5 hours.

There are already various electrical contraptions with batteries that allow a person to theoretically charge a laptop / phone using pedal power.

But there is currently no standard purely-mechanical interface to the bicycle!

The Proposal:

In order to remedy this omission, there should be a standard interface that would allow any mechanical device to receive rotational energy from any bicycle, without requiring modifications to the bicycle. This could be useful in a post-apocalyptic scenario.

The basic plan would very similar to a bicycle-to-stationary bicycle conversion kit (examples: https://www.google.com/search?q=stationary+bicycle+conversion+kit ).

  1. It would consist of a roller that is driven by direct contact with the rear bike tire. (Although it would be more efficient to capture the rotational energy at the pedals, most methods of doing so would require at least some minor alterations to the bicycle [1] .)
  2. The roller would have a standard-sized drive gear on one end, which could be connected in order to power compatible equipment without the need for any electrical or battery-based intermediaries.

Such devices might include:

  • A drill (with power transmitted through a cable, in the same way as an old-fashioned foot-pedaled dentist’s drill operates).
  • A bike / car tire pump. Much easier than compressing a cylinder manually!
  • A water pump, perhaps for drawing up water from a well.
  • A sewing machine
  • A blender
  • An electric mixer
  • A circular saw

bike-power-transfer
Fig 1: Pedaling this now-stationary bicycle causes the back wheel (red) to drive the stationary-bicycle-style roller (blue), which then causes the attached gear to rotate (yellow). Additional to-be-powered devices can be attached to that gear at the point indicated by the orange arrow. (Note: although in this diagram the gear is connected to a long axle, the gear would presumably actually be directly attached to the roller.)

PROS: Lets you use various blending / cutting / etc. devices in a post-apocalyptic world without electricity or batteries. The standardization of this system would allow simpler development of additional devices to be powered in this fashion.

CONS: This proposed device would probably occupy a lot of space in a garage or closet, which would be wasted in the event that there is no post-apocalyptic world to cope with.

 

[1]: For example, a gear could be interfaced directly with the front gear (avoiding the entire chain of transmission loss to the chain, rear wheel, and roller), or the chain could be attached to the front gear and used to directly power our drive gear / roller, avoiding the transmission loss with the roller and rear wheel.