Pedal power: from the people, to the people

by Raymond Parker on February 9, 2012

in Health, Technical, Training

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People Power, Zucotti Park, Occupy Wall Street Camp

Today, the gym I frequent will unveil new exercise machines.

The manager told me on Tuesday that these improved implements of torture will generate electricity … or the users will.

The thought of paying a membership fee to provide power back to building’s “grid” is amusing.

Imagine, if you will, fitness slaves (perspiring in the basement of the hotel in which the facility is located) powering the lights in the guest rooms above.

In return for donated kilojoules, perhaps they’ll offer restaurant discounts.

To date, the sum of my power production, outside of propelling my bike, has been confined to lighting my way, via a generator hub.

Pedal-powered machinery and generators are nothing new; they are still used in “Third World” countries, including Guatemala and India.

In calorie-rich countries like Canada (where people burn energy on treadmills to nowhere) it makes sense to make like gerbils, while producing electricity, or grinding maize.

I ran across a Low-Tech Magazine article recently, that examined “Pedal powered farms and factories: the forgotten future of the stationary bicycle.” It’s worth a read.

In the meantime, I’ll be donating my winter fat to the cause.

Speaking of drivetrains, I’ve added a Garage post on Cassettes & Freewheels

{ 2 comments… read them below or add your spin! }

Jono February 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm

The thought of people generating electricity by exercising was brought up in the excellent 3-part series Black Mirror which aired in England back in December.

The 2nd episode, 15 Million Merits, has people exercising earning merits to purchase virtual merchandise for their avatars—or buy a ticket to get on to a talent show and hopefully get to a better life. Everyone lives and mostly interacts via their avatars, except in the exercise rooms.

The series is excellent, the first episode is quite hilarious and set against modern times, but the following episodes are in the near (?) future. The 3rd episode, The Entire History of You, is quite poignant.

I don’t know if it’s available to stream, I found it online.

And I think you may appreciate the first episode Ray. A princess in England is kidnapped and the ransom is that the Prime Minister has to screw a pig live on TV. 😉

Black Mirror Wiki


Raymond Parker February 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Very interesting, Jono. Us Brits do seem to have a penchant for dystopian stories; perhaps because English society has long been class-divided into a kind of tribal brave new world.

Maybe that’s why, in response, the country is such a hotbed of caustic satire, from Jonathan Swift, to this latest TV series.

It wasn’t a stretch for Aldous Huxley (in 1932) to have us “hatched” into five casts: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon, with corresponding order of status, of course.

Unfortunately, the stream (at the link) is not available here. Maybe Knowledge or PBS will pick it up. I’m dying to know if, er, the fair princess is saved.


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