10 Things you can do with a Bicycle

Feb 29, 2012

by Michael MacRae ASME.org

Courtesy of www.engineeringforchange.org

Since inventors have recast the bicycle as a cheap power supply for myriad products, the world's most efficient transportation device now handles everything from poop to ice cream. Here, we have rounded up ten of the most practical and creative ways that bicycles are serving communities in the developing world.

1. Husk corn Prop a bicycle on a stand, attach this corn sheller, and two people can fill a 90kg sack of corn in 40 minutes, which is about 40 times faster than doing it by hand. One person pedals, the other drops corn into the sheller.

Jodie Wu, a 2009 MIT graduate, and Bernard Kiwia, a Tanzanian bike mechanic and inventor, put their heads together to create the corn sheller in 2008. Wu founded Global Cycle Solutions, a social enterprise that takes the sheller to villages around Tanzania. GCS has since created another bike-driven device, a mobile phone charger.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/embed/EFHXoNckivE


2. Sharpen knives Afrigadget posted this short video of a bicycle-powered knife sharpening machine at work in Nairobi, Kenya. Peter Karagu turned a bicycle into a knife sharpener that he can use while pedaling in place. In some parts of the developing world this machine could be a viable business as a neighborhood sharpening service.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/embed/9bx_PkNIfK4


3. Strip for parts to make a windmill William Kamkwamba built his now-famous DIY wind-powered generator from salvaged parts, including a bicycle frame and chain. As he told E4C, the windmill lit lights that Kamkwamba installed himself in his home in rural Malawi when he was just 14 years old.

Bike parts make an appearance in another wind-powered design: a family-sized generator for homes in rural Guatemala. Catapult Design, a San Francisco-based engineering firm, pieced together the prototype of a generator using a DC motor and a bicycle chain. The generator is designed to link to a vertical-axis wind turbine that is made from locally-sourced parts and cheap enough for a rural Guatemalan family to afford.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/embed/kZMsR-SyGxk


4. Charge a battery Fenix International developed a bicycle-powered generator to recharge its modified batteries for off-grid homes in developing countries. The batteries are big enough to power low-energy appliances and LED lights in homes, and they're designed for safety, durability and long life. To charge them, Velo generator kits attach to the back of a bicycle, raise the rear tire to keep the bike stationary, and recharge the ReadySet in an hour. In five to ten minutes of pedaling, the generator makes enough power to charge a mobile phone or power a bank of LEDs for two hours.


5. Filter water Waterborne disease is a leading killer of children under age five worldwide, and a crippler of economies, keeping children home from school and adults home from work. In communities where open cook fires are the first line of water treatment, combining the world's most efficient transportation device with a water filter is a good idea. Two bicycle-powered water filter designs caught our attention.

Nippon Basic Co. invented Cyclo Clean, a bicycle rigged with a pump to draw water from a river or well and a robust, three-filter system to purify the water. The filters are designed to last without replacement for two years, and the tires are puncture-proof. It can filter three tons of water in 10 hours.

Cyclo Clean is pedal-powered utility at its most refined, so, the Aqueduct is like Cyclo's whimsical little brother. It is a tricycle with bubbly curves and a sky-blue paint job that pumps up to two gallons of water through a filter while the rider rides. It does not draw water from an outside source, like Cyclo, and Cyclo handles much greater volumes of water, but Aqueduct's one advantage is that it can do its job on the move.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/embed/-U-mvfjyiao


6. Use it as an ambulance The bicycle ambulance is an idea conceived in rural Nepal, where there are few vehicles and unreliable public transportation. It is a low-cost practical solution for emergencies, and it can be constructed locally by bicycle mechanics. Practical Action has published a free construction manual for the ambulance, a two-wheeled trailer hitched to the back of a bicycle. The carriage has enough room for two people to sit or lay, and it is equipped with a sun shade and shocks to make the ride more comfortable for an injured person. Our Solutions Library has details.


7. Cross a river Borne of a love affair divided by a river, this amphibious bicycle transforms into a pedal-powered watercraft. At the shore, floats drop down from the wheels and the vehicle takes its rider pedaling over water to visit his love interest at her inconveniently located home. Anil Gupta, founder of the Honeybee Network, has called the amphibious bicycle an example of highly creative innovation among his peers in India.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/embed/REx9rMDbqRg


8. Pump water Bikes can power water pumps for drawing well water, irrigation and evenlawn sprinklers. A team at MIT developed a promising design for a bike-powered water pump. And this young inventor combined a bike-powered pump with a slow sand filter as her entry in the Specialized Innovate or Die competition in 2007.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/embed/fJJsK3kZTCQ


9. Pump out a pit latrine In neighborhoods where pit latrine maintenance is sporadic and raw sewage can sometimes overflow into the street, a mobile, low-cost poop-pump can reduce the spread of disease and save lives, not to mention add a little dignity. A team of engineering and business students have turned a bike into a latrine pump and built a business around it called Sanergy. The pump is the first step in a waste-to-energy process that Sanergy has created for developing communities.

Video: http://player.vimeo.com/video/20800577?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0


10. Wash clothes Family clothes washers can pedal their way to limpieza in Peru, where an MITteamturned a bicycleandoil drum into a washing machine. The"bicilavadora" got a test run atanorphanage outside ofLima,shown in the video.The bicilavadora can save time and help keep the laundry, and laundry soap,out of the streams and lakes where clothes are oftenwashed.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/embed/xd4gPZAdQJw

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