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Shared Pedelec Trikes

All-weather urban light transportation option. Ideal for northern cities in Winter!

Photo of John M Smart
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Michigan Central Station

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Pedelec Trikes use both pedal and electric power, in whatever combination the rider likes. These vehicles are great all-weather car replacements, especially in Winter, when eBikes and eScooters, even with snow tires, are challenging to ride. As part of an on-demand network, sitting on street corners around the city, they are safe, inexpensive and convenient for 20-mile-or-less round trip commuting.

Here's one model I like:

https://pt.made-in-china.com/co_hongducz/product_Fashion-48V-500W-Adult-Fat-Tire-Cargo-Tricycle-Three-Wheel-Electric-Tricycle-with-Pedal_rinusngog.html

It has fat tires, so it works great on old or new snow and ice. It has electric assist, so the rider gets a big boost (2X-5X) of electric energy with every pedal. The rider can get as much or as little exercise as they like, that's the great thing about pedelecs, they are healthier transportation options than e-vehicles without pedals. It has a cargo bay for groceries, it is stable around corners (you have to really try hard to tip it), and it isn't big. You can put these trikes even on small street corners around the city. Two or more will nest closely, unlike quadricycles, which are unnecessarily bigger, more expensive, and harder to steer in fresh snow.

These can be weatherproofed, and plastic disks can be put over the spokes on the back wheels, to make them kid-safe. A retractable fabric cover can be made that rolls out from the back over the top of the trike, to keep the snow off it. At the end of their rental, riders could be required to pull out the cover, clip it over the front handlebars, and take a picture on one of the city-approved street corners, just like with shared e-scooters today. 

I'd also add LED back lights and a flag on a fiberglass pole to improve visibility for street riding. An NTSA-approved child seat / rumble seat could be added above the cargo bay for parents with kids. Parents could mount their own NTSA-approved child seat or rumble seat to the ones without kid seats already attached, strapping it in with the same types of attachments used in cars today. Parents could find out where each type was located, using their phones.

This particular model is $800 ordered in bulk from China. 

A startup could buy and modify these Chinese trikes today, or make their own (or Ford?), and deploy a few hundred around MCS this Fall, in time for Winter.  

An ideal partner-leader for that project would be an existing shared e-scooter company, as they already have apps for this kind of use and could scale it across America and globally. 

I'd be happy to be on a team to get a few hundred of these snow-ready Pedelec Trikes into the MCS area prior to this Winter. Reach me at johnsmart@gmail.com if you'd like to work on this project!

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Photo of Christopher Craft

Hey John thanks for your input. I'm Chris, part of the City:One facilitation team for the Michigan Central Station Challenge. I find winter conditions to be one of the major complicating factors when it comes to transit in the Detroit area; winter here is rough! Bicycles are definitely much harder to use when there's snow on the ground - so these tricycles seem like an interesting innovation. Do you have any experience using these pedelectric trikes?

Additionally, there have been several other posts in this challenge talking about inclusive mobility with a focus on those with disabilities. I could imagine these tricycles would be more stable than bicycles or scooters - I'm curious if these could be a better solution for those with mobility concerns?

Photo of John M Smart

Hey Chris, great to hear from you!

Yeah, Winter is rough. The best mobility solution (walking mobility) that can make Winter enjoyable for everyone is good, heated clothing. I used one of the newer heated jackets in Winter last year out here, and it really helped. Better, lighter e-heated clothing makes it easier for urban residents to get and stay outside, in general. Thanks to your nudging, I just submitted an Idea to the platform for that, Better, Cheaper Heated Winter Jackets:

https://challenges.cityoftomorrow.com/challenge/detroit/explore/better-cheaper-winter-jackets

To your questions:
1. Yep, I've ridden lots of pedelecs in different form factors. These Trikes are the best for Winter, in my opinion. One great thing about them is their big battery. You can use it for lots of things. Let me give you two examples:

A. You can attach a small waterproof tablet with GPS on the handlebars, and give CMS residents Google's Turn-By-Turn Navigation. That is hugely valuable for getting around. Or if that is out of the budget, you can just give them a secure clip-mount for their phone, and popular dongles for charging it during the ride.

B. You can add a charging dongle to the back of the seat that runs from the Trike battery and attaches to any heated jacket. That will heat your jacket and recharge its battery if it is low or dead. Motorcycle riders use such dongles on their jackets today, they are entirely safe and they don't limit mobility. The dongles *break away* if you forget to detach them when you get off your Trike/Motorcycle, as many folks do, at first.

2. Yes, Trikes are completely stable, unlike bikes and scooters, which only the balance-confident will ride in snow. Trikes are excellent for those with mobility concerns. A key is to have a big, well-cushioned seat. You can also add a heating element to the seat, with a lighted switch on the side of the seat, just like in cars, which makes it even more comfortable in the cold.