The recent thread on autoshift bikes, looking at the Taiwan bike design awards site and the survey on Encyclopedia got me thinking (always a worry). There seems to be some effort going into designing the perfect bike for general purpose cycling that will get people out of their cars and riding.
Here's the question for the forum: What features should a general purpose bike have?
The trend seems to be heading towards automating as much of the process a possible, but I'm not sure that's the best path. My own feeling is that the design should be, in no particular order, simple, comfortable, light, relatively maintenance free and attractive to look at.
I like the idea of bikes with shaft drive and hub gears. They may not be quite as efficient as a chain and derailluer, but they're clean, quiet, maintenance free and have an uncomplicated appearance. Hydraulic drive shows promise as well. This has the added advantage of getting rid of the hub gear and is potentially even more efficient at transferring power than a chain. Trouble is, the one I've seen is a little bulky. See it here.
A good GP bike should have a fairly upright position. Suspension is unecessary I reckon. It's a weight and maintenance burden, and unecessary for city streets. A spring saddle and fattish tyres should provide all the suspension needed to smooth out the ride.
Add fenders, racks, dynohub lights and an integrated lock and you've got a neat little around town bike. It may not be the lightest steed on the street, but it's practical.
Any other ideas?