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Design Awards Honor New Wave of Bike-Related Innovation

1:54 PM EST on November 7, 2008

08_11_4thStreetBikeway.jpgSignage for the 4th Street Bikeway in Los Angeles

The rising popularity of cycling is fueling a renaissance in bike-related design. Not only new product designs, but innovative graphic design, street design, and information design are shaping a new era in cycling culture.

The People's Choice Design Awards, a pan-design showcase organized by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, reveals ways in which designers are responding to the challenges faced by cyclists today. After a month of public nominations and voting, the final results were announced October 23. Out of 276 nominees -- including everything from a stylish hearing aid to the iPhone to modular shelving blocks -- five were folding bicycles, and four others were related to cycling.

08_11_04_Strida_1.jpgThe Strida 5.0

Placing eighth overall was the Strida 5.0, a UK import that has continued to win fans since arriving on U.S. streets one year ago. With its simple triangular frame, greaseless Kevlar chain, and ability to roll when folded, it is well adapted for urban commuting. A comment from Mark Wheatley on the awards page sums up the bike's appeal: "Best multimodal solution ever! I use my Strida in combination with travel on trains, planes, cars and on the bus system." Unfortunately the Strida 5.0 has only one gear, although its more expensive cousin (Strida MAS Special) offers two. And like many of the best contemporary design products, the $800 pricetag remains out of reach for many potential users. See ID magazine for a full review.

Another popular British folding bicycle, the Brompton, ranked in the top 20 percent of vote recipients. Clive Sinclair's super-lightweight A-bike with tiny wheels was nominated, as was Puma's glow-in-the-dark Stealth Visibility Bike.

Among the most inspiring nominees is the 4th Street Bikeway project in Los Angeles. Determined to improve bicycle signage in L.A. and beyond, local cyclists and graphic designers led by Joseph Prichard have collaborated to design a comprehensive visual language providing warnings and route information. The project proposes a system of permanent signage as well as DIY stencils and templates that allow cyclists to create their own bike route signage anywhere.

Vélib, the Parisian public bike-share program, and the grassroots digital map-making interface known as Green Map also received nominations.

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