Human powered advancements are being made in the realm of sustainable transportation right here in Minneapolis Minnesota! The Pedal Cloud, which is among other things a parade float commissioned by Forecast Public Art Works of St. Paul for their 30th year anniversary. The Pedal Cloud F-30 was debuted on Sunday the 4th of May at the 31st annual Mayday Parade. It was supposed to emulate a cloud and represent Forecast which funds public art around the Midwest. Hans Early-Nelson and Matt Carlyle designed and engineered the pedal-powered contraption. Juliana Peterson and Julia Kouneski along with numerous (100 or so) volunteers helped build and assemble the machine over the course of two months, logging untold hours and enduring up to 30 hour shifts towards the completion day.
The custom mild steel and stainless steel frame was adapted to a 1974 VW Beetle rear suspension and a 1979 VW Bus front end (much sturdier than the beetle) creating an extremely torsionally rigid framework to build on. 10 lugged bicycle frames are grafted onto the frame and linked together using recycled bicycle tubing. All ten riders share a common handlebar while experiencing an amazingly smooth ride in intimate proximity to one another. Their pedal power is transmitted to a pair of drive shafts which are linked together in the rear by two helical cut gears (scavenged behind a grain silo over 5 years ago) one of which powers the transmission by chain and sprocket. Helical gears are by design more quiet and considerably more efficient than straight cut gears so behold the power and benefits of dumpster diving!
The Pedal Cloud is steered using the stock steering box from the VW Bus, steering power being developed through the leverage of a full size 27inch bicycle road wheel. The driver, being the only passenger,steers, brakes and shifts through the gears including reverse. Because of relatively low RPMs being developed from the riders (roughly 400 to 1700 rpm with favorable gear ratios employed) no clutch is required to shift gears, we simply request that the riders briefly stop pedaling while we shift.
The bike car has now logged almost 300 miles since May 4th. So far we've made it go nearly 30mph in fourth gear with 10 pairs of legs downhill. A comfortable cruise at 15mph is possible if everyone pedals. It is plenty of speed to get you downtown in a timely manner granted you will break a sweat and most likely make some new friends. One thing I do know for sure, the dual front 12 inch hydraulic disc brakes provide enough braking potential to stop the cloud in a hurry.
I envision such a vehicle being utilized to replace buses on the narrow Nicollet mall in downtown Minneapolis, as well as up and down Hennepin, Lyndale and Lake street. To provide some seriously enviro-friendly transport opportunities to the community and the world would be an amazing asset to our quality of living don't you think? Not to mention you'll be having some of the most fun you've ever had motivating this thing! Thanks for taking the time to read up on something truly sensible and useful in combating dependency on oil and the unnecessary comforts it gorges us with. Lets move our legs and stay fit like we are intended to be!
Keep your eyes open, you will be seeing it around especially now that the sun is out.
The next event is the Art Car Parade Minneapolis July 18th. Many thanks to Forecast Public Art.