After spending some in Amsterdam, Ilya Pikus started to wonder if one of the reasons the Netherlands always ends up at the top of “happiest country” rankings was the fact that most people bike around for everyday errands: 60% of trips in the inner city are made on two wheels. Biking gets people outside and active, both proven happiness-boosters.
When he moved back to the U.S., Pikus started looking for Dutch bikes at home–because although much of the credit for the popularity of Dutch cycling probably goes to the country’s serious bike infrastructure, he noticed that the bikes themselves also made a difference. He didn’t find bikes that “met true Dutch standards,” so two years ago, he decided to design his own. His new company, Peace Bicycles, is now fundraising for a first lineup of bikes on Kickstarter.
“We saw a rising tide of urban commuters,” Pikus says. “But we didn’t see what we wanted in the market. It was either that you get kind of a stripped-down fixie with maybe one brake, or there are the high-end boutique bikes that are manufactured in Europe, but they’re out of reach for the average customer.”
The Peace Bicycle is designed to be more affordable–Kickstarter prices start at $599, and the company plans to offer the bikes for $799 at retail. Unlike many other bikes, it comes fully-loaded with a rear rack, front and back lights, a bell, and a reflective strip. It also has fenders, a full chain guard, and a spoke guard, so there’s no possibility that a skirt or a dress can get stuck as someone is riding.
“Nobody’s making fully equipped bikes, even though it’s such a necessity–especially for women, one of the biggest barriers to entry is safety,” Pikus says. “Other manufacturers aren’t including these standard accessories.”
The bike is also better suited for urban commuting in other ways, he explains. Extra-thick “pothole-friendly” tires handle city streets better than road bike tires, and sitting upright makes it easier for cyclists to see and be seen. It’s also designed to be ergonomic, with less strain on the wrists and back than a typical road bike.
For every bike that’s sold, the company plans to donate another via co-ops throughout the country. “The root of our company is definitely a desire to give back,” Pikus says. “When I was young, the bike was always an escape, a sense of hope and opportunity for me, and that’s something that I wanted to personally pass on to as many people in need as possible.”