If you’re like me, you’ve always hated that our transportation systems like bikes and buses and cars all operate on an existing infrastructure, rather than one that would require a huge amount of money and disruptive construction projects to reinvent. Right? I mean, riding your bike on roads that are already there? What’s up with that? Shouldn’t we, I don’t know, ride them in the sky or something?
That right there is the Shweeb personal monorail system, and if you’re thinking it looks really uncomfortable, you’re probably right. It’s designed to be used as urban transportation, and it’s not a cataclysmically terrible idea, but . . . it’s a few fries short of a Happy Meal. My primary objections are threefold:
- It’s an enclosed Plexiglas bubble. That’s a recipe for heatstroke, or if not heatstroke then at least some very serious sweating, fogginess, and inhaling the vapor of your own flabby body. Have you never been in a Port-o-Potty in the sun? Oh, and imagine farting. Or getting in after someone. Yeah.
- What if I have, I don’t know, belongings? Like groceries, or a backpack, or a laptop, or a banana? There is NO GODDAMN ROOM in this thing.
- There is only one track. Like a road with one lane. Which, as I recall, is everyone’s favorite kind of road.
Luckily, Shweeb is acknowledging that people think their idea, “like all truly forward-thinking ideas,” is crazy like a ferret trapped in a fat man’s pants. To that end, they’ve decided to publish an FAQ page. Here’s a couple of their entirely satisfactory answers.
1. What if I want to overtake?
Firstly, let’s assume we are talking about Shweeb in its capacity as a transport system: The pods are geared so that the maximum achievable speed is limited to about 25km/h. This is very easy pedalling (even for someone relatively out of shape), so we expect that a Shweeb transport system would maintain a constant speed.
That’s fair enough, I suppose, and 25 km/h is decent, but “relatively out of shape” does not describe a whole lot of people. What about lazy people?
2. But what if someone refuses to pedal or goes really slowly?
Impact-cushioning buffers at each end of the pods allow faster pods to run into slower pods and form a Shweeb ‘peloton’. This increases aerodynamic efficiency and, unlike a bicycle peloton, the power produced by those behind can contribute to the overall power of the group, thereby increasing speed and efficiency and removing the need to overtake. Should the rider in front refuse to pedal, the extra effort required by the rider(s) behind is minimal due to the low rolling resistance and single aero-pressure point of the peloton.
Umm…sure. So if someone’s texting and they drift down to, say, 10 mph, just ram the fucker. After all, a 5 mph collision can only cause, let’s see:
Oh. That’s from an article about 5 mph collisions, and what they do to your important bits. So never mind.
3. Is it comfortable?
Yes! The fully adjustable seat is reclined at 20 degrees. This spreads the rider’s weight over a large area, takes pressure off the spine and is as comfortable as a deck chair. It also reduces any risk of vertigo anxiety as the rider has no balance issues and feels well supported. Light padding on the seat provides extra comfort whilst providing a firm platform to push back against the seat when pedalling.
I don’t believe you. Look at the damn photo.
You have no head support at all, and I can tell you from experience that sitting on a flat surface while pedaling is a fast track to some serious chafing. That’s why we have things like bike seats, but don’t you even think about using them here because they’ll violate you immediately if you try to lie down on them.
4. Doesn’t it get hot and sweaty in the pod?
Ventilation holes and a sun reflecting roof help to keep temperatures moderate inside the pod. Riding a Shweeb at 20km/h requires less energy than walking at an average pace, so there is no reason why one would work up a sweat.
Except, of course, if it’s WARM OUT. Which it often is. Those ventilation holes are in the sides, meaning they won’t create a draft at all, so there’s still the being-in-a-glass-case-of-perspiration issue. At least there’s a reflective roof, except there totally isn’t. Have you even seen your own product photos? There’s nothing there. If you look at the model in the photo, you’ll notice that she’s bathed in horrific sunlight, and smiling a smile that can only mean that major brain function is on the cusp of shutting down from heat.
I love the idea of new and efficient transportation, but building this system everywhere is going to be massively expensive. There are simply too many kinks left to be ironed out, but hey, they’ve already gotten a million dollars from Google. Maybe it’ll work. Until then, it’s just a sliding plastic broiler.