WHO, WHAT, WHY?
The Magazine answers...
An inventor has made a bike that travels sideways. How does it work?
It has been hailed as the first major development in
bicycle design for 150 years. The Sideways Bike has a steerable wheel
with a set of handlebars at either end.
The cyclist sits sideways and operates a wheel with each hand, and pedalling makes the whole bike travel sideways.
Its key advantage is that it's more manoeuvrable than a
conventional bike, says its inventor Michael Killian, 46, a software
engineer in Dublin.
WHO, WHAT, WHY?
A regular feature in the BBC News Magazine - aiming to answer some of the questions behind the headlines
"The strange thing about it is it's very like
snowboarding or sailing because you're moving sideways and operating on
a different balance system in your head.
"It's a front-to-back balance not a left-to-right like a
normal bike. That affords you tremendous grace and motion. It's
"The advantages are in the motion. It's never going to win you the Tour de France. But it's mesmerising and entertaining."
The back cog drives the back wheel chain, which unlike on a normal bike
can turn either way when the back handlebar is steered.
2:Back handlebar which steers the back wheel and has a rear light.
3:Front handlebar which steers the front wheel and has a light and rear-view mirror.
4:Pedals are at right angles to the wheels.
5:The seat is shaped like an upside-down crescent.
6:This frame goes over the lap of the cyclist, but can go under if preferred.
A modified version, which has two sets of handlebars,
smaller wheels and upon which the cyclist faces forward, could be in
the shops at Christmas priced at £150, if negotiations with a supplier
in Taiwan prove fruitful. And Mr Killian hopes the Sideways Bike will
follow it into mass production.
He has already taken it to Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne,
New York and Boston, to test it on the streets. Riding it around the
Arc de Triomphe was a particular challenge, he says, which drew looks
of bemusement from Parisiens.
But the Sideways Bike would need amending before riding
on the UK streets because riding the current model would mean the
cyclist had his back to the traffic.
"It's a kids' bike, from seven up to teenagers. Some
adults will like it but it's for play and you need to be co-ordinated
enough to ride it."
The younger brother of the Sideways Bike. Yours for £150
After testing it on volunteers, he estimates only about
six out of 10 people are able to master it. And he recommends getting a
cyclist's helmet with a rear-view mirror attached.
A motion Mr Killian much enjoys is "drifting", which is
when both wheels are parallel. The biggest difference to a normal bike
is in turning, which is usually done using both wheels.
A left-hand corner, for instance, will be approached with a move to the right, as it would on a normal bike.
Then the cyclist leans into the turn to take the corner.
The front wheel is usually the first to turn and the back wheel follows
to modify the angle.
He had the idea four years ago, while spending his Saturdays in his shed "working on nonsense".
"The first prototype nearly killed me and I still have a scar on my leg. I took it to a slope and went 330m downhill.
"That was the Eureka moment and it felt like picking up
a glove and finding that it fits perfectly. It was a wonderful
Thanks for your comments. The debate is now closed.
But what's the point? If it isn't particularly safe,
fast, or useable what real point has it got?
Surely designing a bike that, (like Roland Carter pointed out, has
serious flaws when turning because not being able to see traffic) is
for children, is a major mistake! They are the age group most likely to
be injured whilst 'having fun'!
Keith Smith, Leeds UK
150 years of development of the current bike has given
us ultra lightweight, fast, full suspension bikes made from steel,
aluminium and even carbon fibre. These bikes work brilliantly, hence
making this sideways bike a totally pointless exercise. This story will
the first and last time we ever hear about this ridiculous machine.
Iain Pendry, Derby
I am ultra cautious when I ride a normal bike in today's
traffic so I won't be buying one of these. I am sure it will go down in
history as another good but well engineered Irish joke
Pete Weath, Kingston upon hull
Another person trying to reinvent the wheel...literally.
I'd rather face the direction I'm heading and get 180 degree vision of
my travel direction than get hit in the back by a car that I couldn't
You boring people!!! This is how great ideas come about!
People have to be innovative to move ahead, even is some of the ideas
are a little daft! Have a sense of humour for goodness sake. In a world
like ours we need it and good on the BBC for talking about it. Made me
chuckle at least!
Nick Rennie, Austria, Vienna
I crashed my (ordinary) bicycle into the front of a car
this morning, luckily without injury. Maybe its time to invest, except
I dread to think what would happen in a crash situation as you wouldn't
be able to navigate so easily as you cartwheeled through the air,
whereas a neat somersault over the front got me out of trouble...
Anon, Liverpool, England
Is it just me or is this completely useless?! Surely a
great invention is something that improves our way of life not taking
an existing object and making it less functional? I think it should be
sold with neck strain cream too. Strange!
Keely Jackman, London
It's a shame that all of the responses so far to this
invention are negative. It is true that much practical detail remains
to be solved and that modern traffic situations, tricky for any
cyclist, would be more dangerous for the sideways bike - as it stands.
It is also not clear how well the sideways bike would cope with steep
hills. But not all cycling is about city transportation. Much of it is
for health and for pleasure. The conventional diamond-framed bike,
however evolved, remains uncomfortable for many (in particular causing
lumbar problems in many). If the sensation of riding one of these
machines really is as pleasurable as is described - affording 'grace
and motion', being 'dance-like' - then this is surely a valid
contribution to the world of two-wheeled transport. And to attract
people to green transport requires a degree of enchantment and
attraction! Loosen up a bit, everyone! OK, don't try it round the Arc
de Triomphe like Mr Killian did. And at £150 even I could afford one -
more than can be said for a decent conventional bike.
Robin Thomson, Hawick, Scottish Borders, UK
Just 2 words...Sinclair C5
I actually checked my calendar to see if it was April 1st.
Modupe , London
It may not be practical as currently designed but can
still serve as a starting point for other bicycle redesigns. How about
automating the rear steering to keep the maneuverability advantage
while removing most of the learning curve?
Mike Noel, Tucson, USA
If 6 out of 10 folk can master it, does that mean 4 out of 10 bike thieves will be out of a job?
I didn't realise that bicycles were so unmanoeuvrable that they needed redesigning.
Dean, Devon, UK
Fun I suppose but otherwise utterly pointless and
dangerous! How do you put your foot down if you overbalance to the
right (or back in this case)? Take a look in Cambridge at the number of
people who haven't yet mastered riding an ordinary bike safely or
within the law!
Richard Bagnall, UK, Cambridge
You boring, boring people. This was clearly invented as
a bit of fun. I'm absolutely convinced when Skateboards and In-Line
skates, and similar methods of transport were invented; people like you
lot said much the same thing. Lot's of recreational activities are
neither fast, or safe, yet their point is to have fun. I would imagine
a person who places the words having fun in quotes is clearly unused to
the idea of enjoyment.
Peter Fealey, Weston-super-Mare
Whilst this is a fun invention, I find it irritating
that toys like this get so much attention in the main stream media. It
adds nothing to the promotion of cycling as a practical method of
travelling from A to B and sends out the message that cycling is for
cranks and eccentrics. (Even the word crank..)
Ralph Williams, Cambridge UK
As we say in the Big Apple, fuhgeddaboudit! Riding this
contraption on the street in Manhattan means you'll never see the car
doors open behind you as you travel up the avenue (what we
affectionately call being "doored"), you'll never see the pedestrian
jaywalkers as they step out from behind a parked car, and when you get
cut off by a vehicle (which the bus drivers love to do) and fall
backwards your goose is cooked! Sideways=Noways
Rich Weil, New York, New York USA
Side-show Bob might find a use for it
ali albaity, toronto canada
It's a silly design, which is why he's marketing this as
a kids' bike. You can't carry any panniers, there are no baskets, and
you certainly can't tow anything.
This takes a practical machine and reduces it to a nonsensical toy.
Nancy, New York USA
If I ever feel the need to seriously injure myself, I'll
remember this invention. You mention how a left hand corner can be
approached, but how will you be able to check for traffic coming from
behind? Presumably with those eyes we all have in the back of our
heads! Like to see this one get money from the Dragons' Den!!
Roland Carter, Birmingham
When von Drais first invented it, the bike was just a
wooden frame on two wheels and a steering, and the rider had to push it
with his feet... It was received a huge "laughing stock" and everybody
was saying that "it would only remain a joke"... Doest it look
familiar? What's the human mind without sparkles?
Dorin, Brasov, Romania
I agree that the bike doesn't sound as safe or practical
as an ordinary bike. But there are other advantages a bike might have -
it sounds as though riding this in general is an interesting and
pleasant experience. Perhaps it wouldn't be much use on the road but to
get around quiet, open spaces - perhaps simply as a leisure pursuit in
itself - it sounds like it might be quite fun. Why does everybody feel
the need to attack something so virulently that they don't even know
much about? ps. I'm not the inventor, honest.
Sam Cruise, Southport