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Reduce the requirements for micro-vehicles

Comment 7th July 2010

Why do people put up with never-ending traffic jams, lack of parking, inadequate road systems and general bad management just to use their cars?  Simple.  They don't have any choice because public transport is such a joke.

Now imagine if somebody were to bring the Sinclair C5 to market now, but fitted with a small engine in place of the electric motor.  You'd have a vehicle which could travel todays longer commutes, using cycle paths instead of roads, at sensible speed, and be able to park in the tiniest spaces.  And it would be economical – 250mpg?  Sounds good, no?

What about an even tinier machine, which was actually small enough to fold up and stick under your desk in the office.  Something like a kids scooter with a motor?  Or a powered pushbike which can fold.  Even better?  It's easily done.

But if you did produce such a machine, you'd never be able to use it on the roads.

Why?  Red tape.  It's classed as a motorbike.  At best, as a moped.

So, you need to be over 16 to use it.  You'd need tax, insurance, a driving license, probably a CBT bike test, an MOT, and a helmet.  In London, you'd probably also have to pay a congestion charge, even though you're producing far less emissions than the smug greeny in the Prius.

Which seems to be, frankly, ridiculous.

I suggest that we should permit such micro-vehicles to be treated as pushbikes.

You'd need limits on power output, engine size, maximum weight, design speed, etc. 
But such restrictions already exist for "electrically powered bicycles" and are nothing new.

Why not treat micro vehicles, with tiny/limited petrol/diesel engines and about the same power output as a bicycle in the same way?

 

This isn't a new idea, by the way.

Anybody remember the Cycle Master from the 50s?  Brilliant idea, British invention, perfect for adapting to a modern mountain bike – killed by short sighted bureaucrats.

Come on Nick, give us a real, genuine chance to get out of our cars. 
Not just a lot of glib waffle telling us to use buses that aren't there, or trains that only run when they want to, or electric bikes that cost £2000 and run out of electricity half-way home.

Why does this matter?

Green – cuts the use of cars

Green – reduces CO2 emissions.

Green – reduces traffic jams.

Green – better use of resources; most cars only carry one person most of the time.

Green – Cyclemaster could manage 300mpg in the '50s.  Imagine what a modern motor could achieve!

Less noise – fewer cars on the road

No more dangerous than a pushbike, but lots more fun. 

Safer in an accident than a car would be, especially to pedestrians.

Could enable kids to get to school by themselves, freeing parents to work instead of doing the school run.

Reduced parking requirements – use standard cycle lockups and bike sheds etc.  Maybe even store under your desk at work, for a zero-parking requirement.

Reduced cost – make more effective use of cycle lanes, rather than spend money on additional road capacity.

No longer the same requirements for speed humps etc.  Not as important to control the speed of vehicles which are limited to (say) 30mph anyway.

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