Places & Spaces: Where Pedal Power Is The HVAC

All over the world, bike powered energy is being used to burn calories and produce clean wattage.

Cycling is a massively popular pastime, means of transport, and sporting activity. Millions of people use two wheels to get around, have fun, and get a carbon-neutral adrenalin rush. Now, in places and spaces all the world, energy generated by pedaling is being turned into electricity to power leisure and entertainment equipment.

In the UK, pop-up carbon-free movie theaters are being powered by the audience. Open-air cycle-in cinemas are appearing at British festivals and art spaces promoting a “celluloid kills cellulite” type experience. One of the organizers of these cycle-led events is Magnificent Revolution, a collective of artists, musicians, designers, engineers and ecologists that run workshops about renewable technology and micro-power generation.

We all love to relax in front of the TV, but some places want you to pedal to earn your entertainment. The Cottage Lodge in New Forest, England, has introduced a bike-powered television for guests. Built from a reclaimed ship from the 17th century, the Cottage Lodge fuses sustainability and media very creatively.

At the other end of the “leisure time” scale, a prison in Phoenix, Arizona uses Pedal Vision, which is also a pedal-powered TV system. But there’s no choice for these guests: to watch their favorite shows, inmates have to cycle while positioned in front of the TV set. Some see it as unfair making the inmates cycle to watch the box, but the box-watching prisoners are undeniably fitter and healthier. If they slack off, the TV shuts down.

So, thinking logically, when you’re cycling for the sake of it, can’t that energy be harnessed too? Of course it can. While you’re pedalling at the gym – or running, or on the cross-trainer – the kinetic energy that was used can be re-used for a constructive, emission-cutting purpose. Florida company ReRev retro-fits workout equipment to generate electricity: 30 minutes’ exercise produces 50 watt-hours of clean electricity. The Universities of Arkansas, Florida, Montana, North Texas, and Oregon all use its system.

The trailblazer for pedal-powered exercise systems was the super-environmentally-friendly Green Microgym in Portland, Oregon, which was the U.S.’s first human-powered gym. The gym offers further incentives for using its electricity-generating machines, some of which are fitted with iPads: each half-hour workout earns you a voucher to use at local businesses. Encouraging support for neighborhood stores, as well as being carbon-neutral (they also use solar power): we like.

Photos: Mon Labiaga Ferrer, Magnificent Revolution, Cottage Lodge, Green Microgym

Places & Spaces is a travel guide that will inspire you to carve out a vacation on your calendar. All of the gorgeous locations and accommodations in our guide share our concern for the environment. From tent glamping to lavish built environments, fair warning, you’ll feel compelled to pack your suitcase.

Fiona Flores Watson

Fiona Flores Watson covers Places & Spaces for EcoSalon and currently resides in Seville, Spain.