New Bike

Globe Daily Bike

My new bike: A 'Globe Daily' costing more than I ever imagined I would pay for a bike. It's OK because the government - i.e. you -will pay for half!

The underlying Moral IssueI have just ordered a new bike even though my old bike is not broken. I feel terrible about this, but since I have had the old bike for roughly 10 years and it has been stolen, beaten up, and then recovered and repaired, it is probably not an offensive self-indulgence. However the reason I bought a bike now is because the government is subsidising the cost of bikes bought for travel to work and NPL offer a scheme in which I (as a higher rate taxpayer) pay only around half the cost of the bike. And even that is taken in 12 interest free installments from my salary. So given that I would probably need a new bike in the next 5 years, it made sense to get it now for half price. So if you are a taxpayer, I would just like to say: Thanks 🙂

But how can that be fair?: The aim is to encourage people to cycle more and in particular to cycle to work, and I think there are probably are marginal cases where it does achieve its aim. But personally, I would have cycled to work anyway. So the government is paying me to do something I would have done anyway. IMHO the money would be better spent on cycle paths which would encourage me to use the bike for more journeys than I currently do. Similar issues occur whenever any activity is subsidised.

  • Why – with the noble aim of encouraging production of renewable electricity – should people with £10,000 to spare be subsidised to buy solar PV panels which will reduce their electricity bills and give them a guaranteed return on their investment. We all know that the most effective way to reduce national energy wastage would be to invest in  insulating homes.
  • Why – with the noble aim of encouraging production of renewable electricity – should wind energy providers be subsidised not just for the useful electricity they produce, but for electricity they produce which no-one can use. Here the government spending might have been better targeted to increasing the capacity of the national grid to capture and store wind energy surges from remote parts of the country. Unfair stories here and here.
  • Why – with the noble aim of encouraging agricultural production – do we pay billions of pounds to farmers, but let high tech businesses go bust for want of investment?
In each case, subsidies direct investment, and in each subsidies are very blunt instruments. The only rational reaction to this essentially random unfairness is to take advantage of the subsidies when they are available., and otherwise just do the best one can
What we should really be subsidising: After having just ordered my bike, I saw this:

A bike with a flywheel to capture energy lost on braking.

 a bike with a built-in flywheel. A switch allows the rider one of three choices:
  • to store energy in the flywheel (e.g. when freewheeling down hill or instead of braking);
  • to leave the flywheel to store energy (the normal state)
  • to extract energy from the flywheel (e.g. when starting or going uphill)
Now I haven’t worked out the energy economics of this in terms of extra weight and the amount of energy that can be stored. Neither have I worked out whether the gyroscopic effect would affect the steering. And the high speed rotating disc next to the riders knees looks lethal. But assuming that these issues can be resolved, then my guess is that for a number of urban cyclists, this would be a great idea. I wonder if they will be subsidised?


2 Responses to “New Bike”

  1. B ernard Naylor Says:

    Being an oldie, and therefore easily put off by hills, I bought an electric bike, which irons out the humps and hollows. But I’ve also got a solar PV installation which means I generate more than 70 per cent of all the electricity I consume. But I strongly agree with you about cycle paths. On and off, I go to Denmark, where our son Richard lives. There, cyclists have priority over cars and it is a prosecutable offence for a motorist to cut across the path of a cyclist, even one coming up from behind e.g. at a road junction. Compared with the Danes, we haven’t even reached first base in making our roads cycle friendly. But then Denmark is a very flat country, which makes the cycling option more attractive.

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Yes, Maybe using a battery and a motor is a better way to store energy when cycling. And of course it can be topped up at home. Regarding cycle paths, I find it remarkable how awful we are! The only way I can see to rectify things is to change the law to make it the presumption that pavements can be used for bikes and pedestrians. Yes, I know about rude cyclists, but looking around Teddington more than 99% of the pavements are empty of pedestrians most of the day and could be safely shared. Obviously in towns and shopping areas it would be necessary to separate people and bikes. And I would love to be separated from cars. For me the possibility of imminent death adds nothing to the cycling experience.

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