14 June 2009

Elephant by-pass: News from the slow lane

The Elephant and Castle cycle bypass was described recently in the Mayor's Answers as being 'complete'. Evidently they'd missed the word 'bollocks' off the end.

But it has something to offer the cyclist. It's so tortuous and badly signed that progress around it is slow and unintuitive. It's therefore quite an adventure: you find yourself lost, in new parts of the neighbourhood you never knew existed. Some of them are evidently twinned with Prypiat, and you can't get out of there quick enough.

But others are a pleasant surprise. Yesterday, for instance, we were testing the Hampton-Court solution to the bypass: can you get round by following one side of the maze? And during one stopoff to consult the GPS, we spotted the London South Bank University's student show, which had two interesting bike-related projects from postgrad engineers on display.

The 'Ecocourier', by Liam Johnstone (right), is a heavy-duty carrier bike with a sideways-tilting frame that is said to make it zippy and manoeuvrable round even the narrowest and most jagged spaces, in contrast to the tanker-like machines you see delivering sandwiches. Those square, sturdy bakfietser they use in the Netherlands are fine on their native cycle lanes the width of a tennis court, but they'd be useless on the corsetry squeezes and fly-half side-steps of, say, a London Cycle Superhighway.

And for sheer cool, we loved Andrea Mighali's all-terrain wheeled skates (right), a sort of bicycle minus frame, saddle and handlebars. They have handheld cable brakes which don't just let you stop, they also (by locking the wheels) enable you to step up stairs, if you have to escape Daleks for example.

Of course, only a tiny percentage of student projects end up going into production, and only a fraction of those will succeed commercially. But it's interesting that bike-related projects seem to be so popular and so strongly encouraged at the moment; the above weren't the only ones.

In trying to grope our way back to the bypass, we also stumbled on a solar-powered (model) car demonstration, where we were given a yo-yo each as a token of esteem. For the Elephant and Castle bike by-pass it seemed somehow appropriate.


  1. I saw both projects of Friday and spoke to the inventors.

    Thanks for posting these two items about LSBU Student projects on the London South Bank University Engeering Product Design course, where students regularly win external prizes.

    Anyone can see them today & tomorrow, Monday 11-4, Tuesday 10-5, in the Keyworth Building, in Keyworth Street SE1

    Everyone is welcome, come along & see what our students can do.

  2. Just to add to my last comment above.

    The exhibition is also upstairs and I recall sevral other bike relared items, including a plywood sustanable bike, and a bike motor on back rack.

  3. One of the designs at this year’s show is ‘Green Gear’ - a sustainable city cycle, created by design student Timothy Powell. The eco friendly bicycle frame is partly made using plywood panels, therefore requiring a low energy manufacturing process. This is one of many creative designs that students submit as their final year projects.

  4. Stopped in at the show myself and had a sit down on the eco courier. Quality finish on it, one of the few products there that looked like it could be marketable.

  5. We were well impressed by the show (and by other designs on display too, not just the wheeled ones). Best of luck to all!

  6. Love the eco courier, an excellent solution to our busy london roads. looks a bit safer as well. Where and when can we buy them!!!!! Those wheelie skates look very interesting but i like my legs!!! Its a shame I missed the show, looks like it was very interesting. Good luck to all the designers. MIKE.

  7. I looked at all the products and found the Eco courier to be my favourite, very stylish as well as efficient for the job. I was impressed with the swivel bike seat. Best of luck to all the designers was a very good show