There was plenty of news surrounding the RNC 2012 in Tampa, Florida and the DNC 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina, but here’s something noteworthy that didn’t make the headlines. Both conventions were equipped with Freewheelin zero emission vehicles known as bus-cycles, or pedal buses, to help people get around. There were 20 bus-cycles at each event providing transportation, exercise and shade to convention-goers, which were donated by Humana, a Louisville, Kentucky-based health care company.
How does the bus-cycle work?
The pedal bus driver plus five riders on the outer seats all pedal the bus together, while three riders in the middle can just sit back and relax. According to Humana, “Spending just 30 minutes pedaling a bike at a leisurely pace can burn between 140 to 380 calories and, for every mile pedaled rather than driven, nearly one pound of carbon dioxide (CO2) (0.88 lbs) is kept out of the air.” Riding your bicycle, or in this case riding a bus-cycle, is good for the planet and for your health.
Why did Humana create the Freewheelin pedal bus?
Humana created bus-cycles for their employees after launching a successful bike sharing program in 2007. A Humana representative stated, “Humana believes in making fun things healthy, and healthy things fun, and we want our members and all Americans to get up and active. Freewheelin was just another way Humana is encouraging people to engage in healthier behaviors and promote lifelong well-being, which, ultimately, will result in lower health care costs and improved quality of life for our members.”
Through a collaboration with the International Surrey Company and Euro RSGC Worldwide, the pedal buses were assembled by Craftsmen Industries in St. Louis, Missouri. Humana stated, “Quadra cycles, or surreys, have existed for many years as amusement park or tourist attractions. However, the Freewheelin pedal bus is the first to take the shape of a modern-day automobile.”
Freewheelin bus-cycles helped people get around at the RNC 2012. Image: Humana.
Now that the conventions are over, Humana is donating five Freewheelin pedal buses to the Tampa Downtown Partnership to service its transportation programs that serve workers and residents in downtown Tampa. Another five bus-cycles are being donated for community use to the Mecklenburg County Recreation Department in Charlotte. Sadly, Humana will not be selling their bus-cycles to other communities, nor will they be made available to other businesses or individuals. There is potential for bus-cycles to become a big hit in tourism, on large school and business campuses, and in eco-friendly communities. Perhaps another pedal bus company will take the lead.
We know that if we rode our bicycles more often instead of driving everywhere, it would be better for our health and for the planet. We’d burn calories and we would use less energy from fossil resources to power our gasoline-thirsty vehicles. Yet, there are plenty of excuses for not riding your bike such as a lack of bike lanes, the fear of getting hit by a car, getting too sweaty before work or an important event, prohibitively long distances and, of course, laziness. Perhaps the bus-cycle would encourage us to change? It seems like a pedal bus would make riding your bike more social and fun.
In the Netherlands, Dutch children ride pedal buses to school that are made by Tolkamp Metaalspecials. An adult drives the bus-cycle and the children all help to power it as they pedal. It’s also equipped with an electric motor to help on hills, and at $15,000, they cost less than a traditional bus or car. Perhaps bus-cycles could help fight childhood obesity in the United States and promote a more active, healthy lifestyle for children. It would be great to see more pedal buses on the roads!