Most Silicon Valley company, if in need of a thousand or so bicycles, would be able to place a call to anyof the multitude of bicycle shops in the Bay Area, and have a catalog to peruse within days. However,Google isn't like any other Silicon Valley company. When it wanted to replace its 2-year old fleet ofGoogle bikes, it turned to its engineers instead to design a better bicycle.
According to Google's transportation operations manager, Brendon Harrington, "we've got anentrepreneurial and innovative culture... we said, you tell us what you think is a cool design." Thechallenge listed 4 design criteria:
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- The bike must be easy to produce
- The bike must be affordable
- The bike must be both comfortable and secure
- And the bike must be "googly", representing the company's culture and ethos
The challenge apparently struck a chord among Google employees, and over three dozen designswere submitted. Some were serious attempts at designing a better bicycle, based on a number ofcontemporary designs. Others were certainly less practical, such as the Google Bike based off of thePennyfarthing High-Wheel bicycle, a design that was last trendy shortly following the American CivilWar.
Unsurprisingly, the winning team was comprised of engineers who designed their ideal bike withdecidedly googly characteristics. David Fork, a renewable energy technologist with the company,explained "our design motto was: build a user-friendly, safe and reliable, low-maintenance new GBike."
The winning bicycle design is based off of the beach cruiser bicycle design, it incorporates 24" wheels, aGoogle color theme, single-speed gear system, as well as a basket and fenders to keep splash-back awayfrom the cyclist when it is raining.
The previous Gbike was not altogether horrible. The 2008 model of Gbike was all blue and wasfunctional enough to get Googlers around the campus. However, the largest gripe was in the 20"wheels, which is uncomfortable for the taller employees.
As a reward, David Fork and team received a $500 gift certificate to a local bike shop. It is not quite aslucrative as Google stock options, but a rewarding prize in its own right.
Google will be ordering enough bicycles so its 10,000 employees will always have one to ride. Harringtonsays that the company plans to begin with an initial order of a thousand or so.