The three collaborations collectively represented nearly every trick in the book (U of O's retractable kickstand notwithstanding), though the various requirements—lights, lock, stand and cargo capacity—came in entirely disparate permutations among the ~30 builders. In fact, the most interesting aspect of the entries was how each one reflected the personality of the builder.
Thus, it was anyone's game as to who would be taking home a prizeribbon (and, in the case of the top three, a bit of money for their effort), even after the grueling 50-mile field test. In fact, the competition was so close that the decision ultimately came down to (2009 winner) Tony Pereira's integration of electric assist.
If 2012 will be the Year of the Electric Bike, 2011 might be considered the Year of the Bicycle Light: no one could have expected the overwhelming response we received when we first posted about "Project Aura" back in May. The hub-powered, rim-mounted LEDs impart a Tron-like illumination that has captured the imaginations of some 230K+ cyclists (according to Vimeo) and counting; congratulations again to Ethan Frier and Jonathan Ota, the otherwise unassuming Carnegie Mellon undergrads who have since won a Core77 Design Award and applied for a patent on their SURG (Small Undergraduate Research Grant) -funded project.
Crowdfunding and human-centric design aside, 2011 also saw the rise of the digital age artisan, and the bicycle proved to be a worthy object of attention for a new generation of makers who deal in steel (or are big on TIG, perhaps). The East Coast has finally caught up to the cycling culture of California and Portland, where custom framebuilders have set up shop for decades; we're looking forward to seeing what our friends at Brooklyn's Horse Cycles and Boston's Geekhouse Bikes have to show at NAHBS.
Speaking of "furniture on wheels" (per Michael Cubbage of Flat Frame Systems), the two-wheeled machine inspired several home furnishings, including the "Fixie Table," a literal interpretation of Cubbage's pithy description. If the Pure Fix table might be picked up by Urban Outfitters, Jeremy Petrus's "Mishmash" is decidedly more in keeping with the Herman Miller aesthetic, as an homage to George Nelson and Castiglioni alike. Similarly, architect Bruno Urh inserted the iconic form of the bicycle saddle into a distinctly Picassoesque frame in the curvilinear "Chair for Janez Suhadolc."
For his part, young designer Max Lipsey opted for a more subtle translation of bicycle to furniture: he unveiled his "Acciaio" chairs and stools at the Salone Milan in April. The collection takes its name from the Italian word for steel, as each piece is made from lightweight steel tubing and leather that are traditionally assembled into bicycles and saddles. (Incidentally, the 2011 Bicycle Film Festival included a screening of a short of the same name, d'Acciaio, which is viewable in full in our event recap.)
Bicycle-inspired furniture also took the form of wall-mounted shelving, i.e. a storage solution for the cramped urban abodes where many of us reside.
Of course, the public nature of the bicycle is affirmed as much by top-down initiatives at least as much as it is grassroots efforts. Public bike share programs represent the paragon of alternative transportation: we look forward to seeing upwards of 10,000 cycles in New York City's much-anticipated bikeshare program, set to launch by summer 2012, though Germany one-upped us with the even more progressive mo system.
As 2011 draws to a close, one last inspirational-bike-inspired video is worth mentioning here: the Holstee Manifesto's almost overwhelmingly positive "LifeCycle" film. New York City often has a palpable storybook feeling to it, but I shuddered with uncanny familiarity—i.e. in a good way—upon seeing so many often-traveled bike routes in this beautiful, shamelessly optimistic edit.