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Pedal power to the people - Toronto Sun

Exercise bikes will light up shelter

Mon, January 28, 2008

The Salvation Army Gateway shelter will soon be glowing with lights using pedal power from old exercise bikes.

The WeloBike project launches Feb. 12 at the Jarvis St. shelter and volunteers are needed to come in and pedal away for at least 30 minutes at a stretch.

That energy will be stored in an attached battery pack and used to light up the rooms.

"It brings a whole new meaning to the expression 'people power', " said WeloBike founder Cyril Guerette.

The initiative makes people aware of the work that goes into electricity production and how more energy efficient LEDs and Tungsten halogens are compared to regular light bulbs.

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It also helps people lose a few pounds while they're at it.

Guerette said York University has expressed interest in retrofitting its gym with the WeloBikes. He's also looking at eventually putting his idea into public schools and libraries.

The goal, he said, is to get developing nations to notice the bikes and tap into the energy they can provide.

"It's a way to help places like Africa or Asia get electricity the way we have without creating the same environmental problems," he said.

At first, a single room in the shelter will be lit using three modified bikes -- valued at $750 to $1,000 each. Guerette estimated each bike is able to create an average 50 to 100 watts -- between three and eight halogen bulbs -- an hour. Eventually, each room will be powered by two bikes.

It's a welcome addition at the Gateway shelter. Its executive director, Dion Oxford, said in a blog post on therubicon.org that WeloBike is "one of the things we're trying to do here at Gateway to be greener."

The shelter provides 108 beds to homeless men and also works as a drop-in centre for both men and women.

Guerette added there will be contests for teams each month to see who generates the most energy.

Toronto Environmental Alliance executive director Franz Hartmann questions the financial feasibility of the project if put in public venues, but he's glad to see people thinking of ways to create green energy.

"For every watt that comes from someone turning a wheel, that's a watt of electricity we don't have to get from coal or nuclear stations," he said.

Guerette contended the WeloBike could fit into day-to-day living as well.

"This could really change the way we live," he said. "You could have a WeloBike in your house if you have a family of four."

The launch is Feb. 12 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 107 Jarvis St. For more information visit welobike.com.


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