Published on July 16th, 2009 | by Christopher DeMorro
The Schweeb: Personal Pedal Power Pod
I hate traffic. To me, there are few things worse in the world than having to sit idling in traffic, moving at an inch an hour, all because some dimwit blew out a tire. It is part of the reason I consider myself a country boy at heart. At least to me, the city is a nice place to visit, but I could never live there.
But a new, novel idea involving pedals and a monorail system has the potential not only to eliminate traffic, but emissions and accidents as well. Called simply The Schweeb, this self-enclosed, pedal-powered personal pod is already in use at an amusement park in New Zealand. Geoffrey Barnett and his team of designers see the Schweeb not only as a vehicle of amusement, but as a replacement for personal motor vehicles in traffic congested cities.
The whole idea is so simple, it is a wonder no one has thought of it already. The Schweeb uses a monorail system to guide users along a pre-determined path, and each pod is powered by the rider. Now as I said before, I am no cyclist, and I wouldn’t want to have to cycle my way 30 miles over the hills and through the woods to get to work. But according to The Schweebs website, it takes only half the energy of a regular bike and 1/3 the energy of a mountain bike to pedal, since it is enclosed and there isn’t the rolling resistance of the tires to compensate for.
Further more, Schweebs can be linked together for less air resistance, and more pedal power. Imagine a family trip across town where everybody had their own pod, with their own music, and their own personal space? Never again would parents be burdened with the infamous “He/she is on my side of the car!” argument.
Right now, the Schweeb exists as a race track park, where for $45 per person you get a three lap, 600 meter race. The world record right now for the 600 meter race is 57.1 seconds. Ok, another attempt at math coming, and I know I get it wrong most of the time, but like I said…not my forte. Correct me if I’m wrong! That seems to work out to about a 100 meters in less than ten seconds racing at full tilt, 10 meters a second or so. The Schweeb brochure claims the pod can easily attain speeds of 50 kph, which is about 31 mph or so. They also claim that the average speed in London of a car is just 8 mph, the same speed it was a 100 years ago in 1908. If you watch the video, you can see that these things cruise, and take up a lot less space than the average automobile. Looks like fun!
Pedal power also means zero emissions. None. Nada. No engine, no fuel, period. Saving the environment and money, what more could you want? I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to see these become more comfortable and personalized, too. All that pedaling could probably produce enough energy to power an iPod and maybe even an air conditioner…I wouldn’t want to be stuck in one of those in a heat wave.
It doesn’t look too terribly comfortable right now, but that is something that could certainly change. That is the only negative I can think of, so long as you aren’t adverse to some physical exertion. Sure, it would require a whole new infrastructure, and some kind of turning/switching mechanism so everybody doesn’t end up at the same place. Monorails have been around for decades however, so there isn’t any vaporware technology to take into account.
It also might help with America’s bulging obesity problem at the same time. Wouldn’t that be nice? I could still have my fast food burger, and by the time I got home I could have burned off most of the greasy, fatty goodness. Extra large, please!
I am a firm believer that we need simple solutions to the complicated problems the world now faces, and the Schweeb seems to be just that. Hopefully the rest of you see it the same way.