New products that don’t begin with an "i" can be good too

Last night my old friend Carrie Barlow, media maven extraordinaire, dropped by the house with her husband Phillip and a very cool product that I”ve never seen. Phillip, an electrical engineer by trade (a Swiss one) has an electric bike shop where he”s been turning some pretty interesting bikes into electric versions. He”s even developed some improvements that have earned him a patent. The electric bike thing is taking off all over Europe but has .02% penetration into the North American Bike market. Why? First, electric bikes started out, as many cool technologies do, as the nerdiest transport ever. But now, with the use of one of the kits that Phil, or one of his contemporaries sells, you can turn almost any bike into a weirdly fast and easy to pedal street machine. The bikes use a pedal boost called proportional power assist. It makes it about 5 times as easy to pedal up a hill, plus you can simply sit on the thing, pull a trigger and get the sucker up to 35 kph. They”re made right here in Canada by a company called

What”s keeping more people from riding to work in Vancouver or other hilly cities? The hilly part. I”ve done it on and off for years and the exercise is pretty good but let”s face it, that long hill on the end of the ride? Sucks. Now it”s at least 5 times as easy. And it costs about a nickel in power per commute. I want one. Everybody should want one. This should be the product that saves the world. You don”t even need a license.

Sure all of us get excited about technology that doesn”t really do more than give us new and fascinating ways to sit on our butts. I challenge anyone to show me an app that could take tons of their own carbon emissions out of the atmosphere and do it right now. And I know there”s no app that”s going to get the oil monkey off our back. If only Steve Jobs would put an “i” on one and unveil it at MacWorld.

By the way, I”m getting one of those 900 pound Amsterdam bikes and kitting it out with that ingenious electric booster. Look for me smugly cruising the streets at high speed while expending very little effort.

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