Friday, December 02, 2016

Wake your Karl Drais! How would he crack the problem of motorised traffic clogging city streets?

Karl Drais was the inventor of the the two-wheeled velocipede, also called Draisine or hobby horse. He was a lateral thinker always looking for ways to solve problems rather than just a mechanical tinkerer. In addition to the hobby horse he invented a device to record piano music on paper and a 16 character typewriter for use in court. As we have written before, next June will mark 200 years since he first had a hobby horse built and set off out in to the countryside near Mannheim on the best local road for a quick pint. 
Obviously the Mannheim city fathers have not ignored this anniversary, neither has the Mannheim Technoseum, the Province of Baden Württemberg's technical museum. The former are busy organising bicycle festivals and events. (Check our blog dated 25 March 2016). The latter has a major exhibition on the bike running until June next year. 

The museum has set up a quiz for school children based on the concept that the motor car is leading to collapse of mobility in cities. The question is: "What would Karl Drais invent now to stave off the death of mobility in urban areas." Participants are invited to suggest a traffic concept, an ultramodern, energy efficient vehicle or a plan for an especially cyclist-friendly city. Entries by 2 May 2017. 

I am not sure that this competition is asking the right questions. Any traffic concept would need to cut the number of motor vehicles in Mannheim whether:
All of these are politically impossible until we get to the happy state where there are more cyclists than motorists, even then

However, there is an energy efficient vehicle available right now. 
  • It is called a bicycle or a tricycle. 
    • It improves public health
    • It is non polluting unless the engine has been eating garlicky food. 
    • Its use leads to a traffic density that is higher than with the motor car. 
    • It is safer. 
      • Collisions between cyclists lead to fewer deaths. 

    • One major disadvantage is that the cyclist is exposed to the weather. Maybe Karl Drais, a lateral thinker would be designing better waterproof but breathable clothing or an improved front fairing for a recumbent trike (See under accessories).

One way to cheaply improve the cyclist's lot in the Rhein-Neckar three province multi city metropolitan area is to link cycleways, such as they are, and quiet roads with a knooppunt or Knotenpunkt system (bicycle nodes). This system, invented by a German mining engineer, is to be found in Belgium in Flanders, the Netherlands and Germany in some areas of North Rhine Westphalia: Aachen, Bonn, Cologne, Düren, Heinsberg, Leverkusen, Mönchengladbach, Neuss and Viersen.

Knooppunt sign combined with traditional signposts in Hook of Holland

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