Hesperian Health Guides

Bicycle Power

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 23: Clean Energy > Bicycle Power

A woman pedals a machine.
Some machines run on human bicycle power.

The bicycle may be one of the greatest machines ever invented. Bicycles provide an easy way to get around using only human energy, and have countless benefits for people’s health and the environment. But more than this, human power can be harnessed by bicycles and used as energy for running many different kinds of machines.

A bicycle connected to a battery. Adding a battery, bicycles can power lights, televisions and other machines.
Maya Pedal bicycle power
A woman pedals a bicycle-powered blender.

In 1997, a group came together in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, to promote sustainable development. Called Maya Pedal, this NGO promotes health, environmental protection, and a sustainable rural economy through bicycle power.

They began by collecting used bicycle parts to build bicycle-powered machines to meet the needs of rural people. Maya Pedal sold bicycle-powered machines to anyone who wanted to buy one, but groups that wanted to start sustainable development projects were offered especially low prices.

A women’s collective asked for a bicycle-powered blender to produce shampoo made from aloe vera grown in their own gardens. With the money they make from the shampoo, the women support their families and fund their town’s reforestation project. Another group asked for a bicycle-powered grain mill. They use the mill to grind corn for animal feed which they sell at low cost to local communities. People everywhere have found creative ways to use bicycle power. (See a photo of people using a bicycle-powered dental drill!)