Were I ever to become the Prime Minister of this country (which admittedly is a long shot as I don’t belong to a political party and Prime Ministers recently have been getting younger and younger), the second thing I would do is to ban people from designing things which do the job of something already in existence, only worse. I can live with bad design per se (we are on a long quest to design Nirvana and not everything can be done immediately), but designs which take a step backwards are annoying to say the very least. So annoying in fact that they should become illegal.
Lest this become a rant, I’ll pause and explain why this second great act of my premiership has been playing upon my mind in the last few days. On Friday, I listened to the podcast of Jack Thurston’s Bike Show on Resonance FM (yes, the one I am supposed to be appearing upon in a couple of weeks’ time and which I am now avidly listening to in order to get a sense of what it is and, I have to say, I’m loving it – why wasn’t I listening years ago?). In last week’s show, Jack took himself down to the London Bike Show (I was planning on doing so but it had been a long week…) and interviewed a few people who had some innovative new designs to introduce to the cycling world. You can read about them by visiting The Bike Show’s webpage. I thought the clothes were interesting & the pedal thing intriguing (I was trying to visualise it from its description on the podcast but when I saw the picture on the manufacturer’s website, it looked nothing like the Heath-Robinson image I had in my head). But what most attracted my attention (and no doubt most of the attention of Docklands when it was demonstrated at the Excel Centre show), was the Hornit ‘seriously loud cycle horn’. The Hornit’s website describes the horn as “the loudest cycle horn on the market. It emits a piercing 140 decibel sound which is enough to alert lorries, vans, buses, cars and even ‘in-a-world-of-their-own’ pedestrians. Compatible with all styles of bikes, including road bikes, it gives cyclists a way of letting all other road users know where they are and makes cycling much safer.” (Watch the video at the bottom of this post and get ready to jump out of your skin!) Now, let me first make clear that I don’t think that the Hornit is a step backward in design terms. I have to admit that it’s not my thing however, and the sedate people of Reading and Berkshire may have a few things to say if they had me blasting their ear drums with 140 decibels every time I wanted them to move out of my way. In London, perhaps it has a function. I’ll let others debate that point.
The interview on The Bike Show did get me reflecting upon my own inadequate ‘bell’. Here it is in all its pathetic inglorious state, being outshone by the magnificent glory that is the Cateye front headlight. It’s attached to Reggie’s handlebars and, lest you think Reggie is no more Reggie Ridgeback and has become Reggie Giant, I’ll set your mind at rest; I have no idea why I was sold a Ridgeback bike with a Giant bell. Anyway, when it does go ‘ping’, it is barely sufficient in decibels to alert even the most attentive of pedestrians, let alone those in the evening who have other things on their mind such as how much their petrol bill is this week or how disgraceful the parking charges are (yawn…). As for alerting any cars or passing lorries, I am whistling, if not shouting in the wind. And it is this rather than the ‘hornet’ upon which I will vent my prime ministerial anger and which will encourage me to wage my legislative war on bad design. It is just crap! Bicycle bells used to be just that, bells. They went ‘bring bring’, quite loudly but politely to tell others you were on your way. There was nothing wrong with them whatsoever; they were a brilliant example of classic design simplicity. But what did society have to do? Yes, we had to replace them with the pathetic, useless, pitiful ‘pinger’ (I shall henceforth remove even its status as a ‘bell’ as it is simply not worthy of the name). Probably for reasons of, well… I don’t know; is there a good reason why the traditional bicycle bell had to be replaced with the ubiquitous pinger? Answers on a postcard (or the comment box below). It was purely and simply a massive step backwards in terms of design and under my regime, such a thing would never have happened.
Having calmed down somewhat, I took a walk down to my local Evans bike shop earlier this afternoon. It came as no surprise that of the four so-called ‘bells’ on show, three were of the ‘pinger’ variety. The other one was a ‘Disney Princess Bell’ which ticked the box of being a bell, but there were crosses in ever other imaginable box and I didn’t invest. Would you? I was pounced upon by one of the sales guys and I did ask if they had any normal, traditional bells (without references to Disney cartoon characters) and he suggested I try the website… A little dejected I went for a wander around the rest of the shop and just as I was inspecting the bookshelf to see if they had come to their senses and decided to stock Good Vibrations (which they hadn’t), the sales chap pounced upon me once more but this time with something that looked like a real bell that he had found in the workshop! My delight was uncontrollable (although I did manage to do so), I paid my £3 (bargain!) and am now the proud owner of a proper cycling bell. Well, nearly… It’s still a bit more ‘ping’ than ‘bring’ but it is a move in the right direction. I shall report back later this week as to the effectiveness of my shiny new bit of kit. Update, 8.30pm: Just fitted the new ‘bell’ and it is rubbish. Crap. Pathetic. Embarrassing. Not even worth £3. I need to real bell ‘bell’!
Sorry, what was that? Ah yes, the first thing I would change if I were to become PM… Here is not the place for a full manifesto but it involves Golf Clubs & the housing shortage. You fill in the details. Right, get ready to jump;