Alternative personal transport for countryside and long-distance travel

Comment & Analysis: My name is Oleksii Hanshyn and I arrived in Ireland from Ukraine in the early summer of 2022. In Ukraine, I was engaged in the development and popularisation of human-powered vehicles, namely velomobiles.

IMAGE: A image showing the riding position and internal workings.

Seeing the wonderful cycling infrastructure of Dublin, I was delighted. Indeed, for the conditions of the city, it is hardly possible to create something more practical than a classic two-wheeled bicycle.

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However, as in Ukraine, in Ireland I live in the countryside. These are completely different conditions and tasks for the vehicle. And it is precisely for these conditions that a classic bicycle is less suitable than a velomobile.

A velomobile is a vehicle that moves by human power, just like a bicycle. The word “velomobile” is a combination of the words vélo (French for bicycle) and automobile.

The velomobile is built according to a different scheme than a conventional bicycle. The rider is not on a narrow saddle, but in a comfortable seat, as in a racing car, reclining on his back. The pedals are in front. A velomobile has 3 (sometimes 4) wheels, usually two in front and one in the back. Also, the velomobile has a completely closed streamlined body.

This arrangement has the following advantages:

1 – Aerodynamic efficiency: When your daily commute to work is more than 30km and passes through the countryside, you do not need to stop every 600 meters at traffic lights, you can cycle at a constant speed. It is under these conditions that air resistance becomes the main decelerating factor for a classic bicycle. This is especially important in strong winds. When the wind is a headwind, you may need to increase your efforts many times over to reach your normal speed on a classic bike.

2 – Weather protection: The user of the velomobile is in the cabin, so he is protected from direct contact with the environment. You do not experience the direct action of the oncoming airflow. This means that you do not need special waterproof warm clothing. The cabin is not cold even in the cold, because when pedalling, the body generates heat, and the cooling airflow is much weaker than on an open bike. Velomobiles have an adjustable ventilation system, so you can adjust the temperature inside by opening or closing the air intake in front.

3 – Safety: The velomobile has 3 wheels, so you don’t have to worry about falling when you stop or if you hit a slippery surface. Also, the user is in a closed case, therefore, in the event of an accident, the first impact is received by the velomobile body and dissipates the main impact energy. There are several cases of accidents involving velomobiles. Most often, the user does not receive any damage at all, although the velomobile itself turns out to be badly damaged, especially if the collision is with a car.

IMAGE: Cargo storage in a velomobile.

4 – Practicality: The velomobile allows you to carry a lot of cargo. It is suitable for daily shopping on the way home from work. You don’t have to worry about your luggage getting wet, as you simply place it inside the body of the velomobile.

To sum up the advantages of a velomobile: it is something that combines the comfort and speed of a car with the principle of movement and the adrenaline of a racing bike. Although, I would say that you feel like a racing car driver, because the velomobile makes it quite easy to reach speeds of up to 50km/h going down small hills, and to have a cruising speed of about 35km/h.

With a 250-watt electric assist motor, the velomobile becomes even more practical, as the motor takes some of the load off your legs and allows you to travel 40km a day, every day. I have been using a velomobile for six months now, commuting to work every day. In any weather. Daily commuting will not allow you to spend a lot of energy on the ride, as you need to have time to recover, and with such a travel schedule, there is simply no time.

I saw a lot of cyclists in Irish cities, especially in Dublin. But in my six months of living in Ireland, I almost never see cyclists commuting to work every day in the countryside.

Right now I’m doing a real test of my new velomobile, which I built in the garage. In my time in Ireland, I have already travelled more than 4,000km on a velomobile and I can definitely say that this is a full-fledged single-seat transport for rural Ireland.

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  1. Great to see this initiative Oleksii, and delighted you are managing to make productive use of your time in Ireland. You are, I am sure, aware of the World Human Powered Vehicle Association (WHPVA – which is a member of the European Cyclists Federation (ECF)? It will be interesting to see how realistic it might be on Irish roads, and how it might be regulated under Irish law?


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