There's A Reason We Were Never Promised Flying Bicycles

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 25 2012 4:15 PM

Bad Idea of the Week: Flying Bicycles

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On paper, it flies.

Screenshot.

We may have been promised flying cars, but I don’t recall being promised flying bicycles. Until now.

Wired has a post on a proposal from a team of Czech engineers for a bicycle that would use battery-powered horizontal propellers to lift off from the ground and hover around for up to five minutes. The project is called Design Your Dreams.

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Who would dream such a thing? It seems many Czech boys grew up reading the books of one Jaroslav Foglar, in which a tinkerer named Jan Tleskac managed to invent a flying bicycle (as near as I can decipher from reading Google Translate’s versions of the relevant Czech Wikipedia pages).

Not surprisingly, realizing Foglar’s vision turns out to be a design nightmare. In the latest mockup, the cyclist appears to be strapped into an uncomfortable looking chair, flanked by stabilizing propellers, with two main propellers fore and aft. The one in front, in particular, would seem to preclude a clear view of the unlucky souls below. Of course, that would only be a problem in the unlikely event that the contraption actually made it off the ground.

The Design Your Dreams crew acknowledges that its concept could use some more work. And it doesn’t plan to put it into production, just build a prototype. The real purpose of the project, apparently, is to show off a new suite of 3-D modeling software. That is good to know. Because in reality, I’m guessing the results of an attempted flight would look something more like this:

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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