I like the Germans. I love their open boundaries for inspired technical innovation, not only are they huge advocates (and users) of Linux but outside the virtual their adventurous ingenuity has developed all manner of engineering icons, many now globally revered for brand performance and reliability, but some, like the BMW C1, predominantly confined to a brief few years inside the physical and cerebral borders of the Fatherland.
You may or not have seen one of these things around your urban environment, not so much in the UK but most definitely around European cities. And what is it? Well, it’s more than just a scooter with a rollcage.
The C1 was designed to intelligently combat congestion by slotting in as a transport option between motorcycle and car. Initially produced with a 125cc engine it was later upgraded to 200cc and has since been redeveloped (in 2009) with an electric motor as the presently 'concept only' C1-E (Pictured).
As an innovative urban vehicle I really rate the C1, not only does the design keep you dry but also safe, in fact safety features are the C1′s main development feature. Included as standard are shoulder-height roll bars, a crumple zone around the front wheel and an aluminium roll cage creating a car-like protection cell, they also have twin seat-belts reminiscent of an aviation style four-point harness to keep the rider in place and BMW claim that in a head-on collision the C1 offers a standard of accident protection comparable to a European compact car.
Tests show that wearing a helmet with seatbelts can actually increase the possibility of neck injury in the event of an accident and the C1 was created to be ridden helmet free, a contributory factor which may have led to poor sales and the petrol based C1 line eventually being discontinued in 2003. Although the majority of European countries accepted BMW’s statistics and safety recommendations relating to helmets the stiff old UK refused to acknowledge and accommodate the C1 for what it actually was, i.e a revolutionary new form of practical, funky and fun eco-transport.
The helmet law was created to protect riders from injury however in this instance, as tests prove, it can have the opposite effect, even so in typical jobsworth letter of the law UK fashion there was to be no exception and having two wheels the C1 was unwaveringly classed as a motorcycle. There was a case taken to court several years ago where a helmetless C1 rider won his case but by then it was too late, the damage had been done.
Perhaps now, several years down the line, with the push for eco fuel cells and alternative forms of environmentally friendly transport at the forefront of everyday life the C1-E may still pull interest and acceptance. I'm personally hopeful, but as with Linux, which as an alternative computer operating system delivers its own range of benefits for realised adoption, the pull for the mainstream, from the mainstream, may still sadly give many the fear.
That said, one might wonder what the response would be were it branded, and marketed, by Apple.