Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ideas factory #53: The Backstreets Biking Contest

It's a bicycle time trial between two points in London (or any city, I suppose);

There is a time penalty each time a cyclist passes a set of traffic lights.

The idea is to encourage cyclists to take a route using as few main roads as possible. The game should reward ingenuity, on-the-spot route planning, knowledge of the city's streets, and should promote safer cycling away from main roads.

Cyclists can go on pavements, through pedestrian-only areas, parks etc; however, they cannot use pavements etc to avoid traffic lights unless it constitutes a separate route from the road the traffic lights are on.

Entrants are told their destination five minutes before they must begin. They can consult a map in that time but cannot take a map or iphone etc with them or consult a map en route. They are not allowed to contact anyone else in those five minutes or during the race. This can talk to cabbies, but only to shout obscenities.

The cyclist must self-report the number of traffic lights they passed. All cyclists will have a video camera attached to the front of their bike/helmet; prospective winners will have their videos checked against their report. If this is too awkward/expensive then all cyclists will have to show their route on a map. Race organisers will have to have a map with all traffic lights marked on it. However this would be vulnerable to dishonesty. This is a weakspot.

Another weakspot is that as it is a time trial and not a race, it would be possible for an early entrant to tell a later entrant the destination and for the later entrant to therefore gain an advantage in planning the route, but until there is a major incentive on offer for winning, this probably can be ignored.

The time penalty can be flexible, so for one race could be 1 minute, for another 5 minutes, etc so that a cyclist can use main roads etc when there is no alternative, but is clearly encouraged to seek out new and interesting routes. Obviously cycle fitness would play a part, but perhaps the very fit people would compete in a separate category to people doing it for fun, sort of like the marathon. Bicycles could be put into weight categories, so that pro-level cyclists with their campag & carbon fibre did not dismay amateur entries.

Because the routes would be right across London and not just in the city/West End, cycle couriers wouldn't have a completely unfair advantage. Because entrants could use pedestrian ways, cabbies (if they ever cycle) would not have as much advantage as you might think.

Any ideas to make the rules watertight, or any idea whether it is feasible or interesting are welcome.

Now I know what you're thinking: you're thinking it's a sort of cumbersome, rulebound, pussified version of this shit below, only our one doesn't automatically reward cycling like a inconsiderate twat. Also we'd have much better music.

(More urban bike race videos here)