The correct answer is probably: door number three — “neither, it's a different vehicle that is somewhere between both of them”.

I've had a re-read recently of Frederik Van De Walle's Master's Thesis “The Velomobile as a Vehicle for more Sustainable Transportation” (freely available to download from his site); and while I've never used the term “Sociotechnical Frame”, I've come across a fair amount of misunderstanding about velomobiles while I've been developing the Atomic Duck where I tend to say something like:

It's not a bike or a car, it's somewhere in between.

Typically, a velomobile gets seen as either a type of large bike, because it uses bicycle components; or as a type of small car, because it is enclosed (velomobiles are often mistaken for being some kind of small electric vehicle). But an observer that views a velomobile as either a type of car or a type of bicycle will automatically tend towards a negative comparisons of it,

i.e. “A velomobile is not as good an automobile as a car”:

  • It's slower than a car

  • It has less range than a car

  • There is less luggage capacity

  • It only carries one person

  • It takes more effort to travel, there is no engine.

or “A velomobile is not as good a bike as a bicycle”:

  • It's heavier than a bike

  • It's wider than a bike

  • It's more expensive than a bike

But if velomobiles are seen as a separate vehicle choice, much like a motorbike is seen as being distinct from either a bike or a car, it's easier to see where the advantages of a velomobile lie.

A velomobile has many of the the advantages that a bicycle has over a car:

  • It's lighter

  • It's smaller

  • Costs less to run

  • More mechanically simple, so there is less to maintain.

  • Emits less harmful emissions

  • Healthier for the rider through them exercising

And some of the advantages that the car has over the bicycle:

  • Offers protection from the elements

  • Is faster (through better aerodynamics)

  • Has more luggage carrying capacity

  • Has a greater range because of increased rider comfort.

Four Modes of Vehicle Four Modes of Vehicle

“There are today three vehicle categories: the bicycle, the motorcycle and the automobile. The velomobile is the fourth one: the difference between a bicycle and a velomobile is like the difference between a motorcycle and an automobile (-cycle to –mobile dimension); and the difference between an velomobile and an automobile is like the difference between a bicycle and a motorcycle.” — Frederik Van De Walle, “The Velomobile as a Vehicle for more Sustainable Transportation”