Pedal power can be used to propel some curious conveyances, as evidenced by three stories culled from the Internet:
— Sid Rajan, an Indian biomedical engineer, is riding a unicycle 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles) from Perth to Sydney along the southern coast of Australia in an adventure dubbed: “3 Oceans. 1 Continent. 1 Big Wheel. 1 Crazy Dude.”
Rajan completed the first half of the adventure — 3,700 kilometers (2,299 miles) from Perth to Adelaide — in June and July. He is spending off-time in Adelaide writing his master’s thesis and raising funds for the ride before setting off on the second half of the journey — 2,049 kilometers (1,273 miles) from Adelaide to Sydney — in November and December.
He’s doing the ride in part for himself and to raise money for non-governmental organizations that support children in need of healthcare and education. If he finishes, Rajan would be the first person ever to ride a unicycle from the west coast to the east coast of Australia.
— The Harrison family — Bill and Amarins and daughters Cheyenne, 7, Jasmine, 4, and Robin, 2 — set out Aug. 1 to ride 7,000 miles from Mount Vernon, Ky., to Fairbanks, Alaska, on a “quint” stretch tandem, with five seats, seven cranks and a trailer at the rear. The bike was specially manufactured in Oregon.
The Harrisons call themselves the “pedouins,” which I assume is a contraction of “pedaling bedouins.” You can track their journey on their Web site: http://www.pedouins.org/.
Bill Harrison talked at length about the trip with WBIR/Channel 10 in Knoxville, Tenn. (Check out the video.)
The family is headed south to Florida before traveling west to San Diego, and then up the West Coast to Alaska. They hope to arrive in Fairbanks next summer.
When asked by a local newspaper, the Mount Vernon Signal, about the motivation for the trip, Bill Harrison replied: “It’s the spirit of freedom. We’re going to take a chance and just live our dream. It’s not going to be easy, but the American spirit goes against the odds.”
— Unicycles and tandem bikes are fairly common, but I had never seen a pedal-powered monorail.
Agroventures adventure park in Rotorua, New Zealand, on the North Island about 145 miles southeast of Auckland, features the Shweeb, billed as “the world’s first human-powered monorail.” It consists of two 200-meter-long looped tracks with pedal-powered pods in which riders can reach speeds of nearly 45 miles per hour.
The Shweeb’s promoters say the word is German for “to float,” but I can find no such word in any German dictionary. Shweeb is probably a made-up word from Schwebebahn, which means “suspension railway.”
The idea of the Shweeb was conceived by Geoffrey Barnett while in Tokyo. He envisioned an inexpensive, pollution-free form of urban transport.
“Here’s how it works,” Barnett told the technology Web site gizmag.com. “You get up in the morning, descend to the second level of your apartment building where there’s a Shweeb port and empty Shweebs waiting for you. You cruise over the top of the traffic jams. You don’t pay parking. You’ve produced no pollution. You arrive at work fit, healthy and ready to go.
“You don’t own the Shweeb,” he said. “You use it like a shopping cart. Empty vehicles are restocked to wherever they are needed.”
Check out the video of the Shweeb in action.