Bicycles have long been a preferred mode of transportation amongst environmental activists and others concerned with the environment. They have been touted as the perfect form of green transportation for urban environments, as they produce no emissions and do not take up the valuable parking space that cars take up.
However, bikes have primarily been seen as a form of transportation without other uses. This is beginning to change, as various efforts are underway to harness the energy generated by pedaling a bicycle. In turn, this electricity can then be used to power a range of electrical devices. This phenomenon-called “pedal power” or “the power of pedaling” depending on which source you consult-is spreading environmental consciousness across the globe.
While we are a long way from being able to make electricity out of the energy used to bike around town, the technology exists to create green electricity from stationary bikes. Not only are gyms and other businesses generating pedal power electricity, but the efforts are spreading environmental awareness.
Pedal Power Taking Off
An article published on CNN.com yesterday profiled some pedal power initiatives in place at fitness gyms across the world. A small but growing number of gyms are going green by working to harness the energy produced by their exercise equipment to produce the energy necessary to run the buildings. Stationary bikes harness pedal power to contribute to the gym’s electricity needs, albeit generating significantly less electricity than is needed to run the gym. In other places, ranging from homeless centers in Detroit, Michigan to an Arizona jail, pedal power is being used to generate electricity.
A Danish hotel has also recently attracted attention for implementing pedal power. At the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Copenhagen, guests can volunteer to generate 10-watt hours of electricity in exchange for a free meal. To produce that much electricity, guests need to pedal for about fifteen minutes. It’s an effort aimed at increasing environmental awareness and reducing the hotel’s carbon footprint by producing carbon-free electricity.
There are more opportunities for pedal power, as it could be used in a variety of situations. From harnessing the energy produced by college athletes to powering stages at music festivals, there is an almost infinite number of ways to use pedal power to build environmental awareness. Moreover, companies such as ReRev-which produce equipment to harness pedal power-can also harness energy from other human-powered exercise equipment.
Pedal Power is Limited, but Great for Education
Those interested in pedal power are quick to point out that it is not a solution to the world’s energy problems, but that it is a way of educating people about where power comes from. Pedal power cannot produce enough energy to power entire gyms, but it can increase environmental awareness and be a catalyst for encouraging people to adopt greener lifestyles.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of pedal power is that it will increase people’s awareness of what exactly energy is. Far from being something that just “appears” when you turn on a switch, energy must be generated-whether that be by pedaling or coal-fired power plants. Pedal power can help to increase awareness of this fact, while also educating people about how much energy it takes to power their lifestyles.
You can bet that if everyone had to pedal for half an hour to use his or her computers for half an hour, a lot less time would be spent updating Facebook.com.
“Danish eco-hotel offers pedalpower free meal,” BBC News.
Madison Park, “Pedal power is fueling green awareness,” CNN.com.