People-Powered Bus would Eliminate Pollution

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Tom Osher believes worries over the possibility of Y2K-related energy interruptions make the timing right for his low-cost, energy-efficient, nonpolluting mass transit solution -- the pedal bus.

Constructed out of cheap recycled materials, the pedal bus would seat, or saddle up, about 50 people, San Francisco resident Osher writes in the bus's specificiations.

Self-employed Osher, 54, who has a small haulage business, posts many low-tech ideas on his web site

As with a regular bus, the pedal bus would have a driver to steer the vehicle and shift gears. Passengers would ride free in exchange for pedaling to make the bus move, and a battery would provide backup power for times when there is insufficient people-power, he wrote. There could be music to keep up pedaling morale.

Osher acknowledged that the notorious hills of his hometown could pose a challenge to even the strongest pedaling passengers, but he said he envisaged a route from downtown to the Mission District, which is relatively flat.

The engineering challenges for such a bus include designing an appropriate brake system, converting pedaling into electricity and building a vehicle light enough to be powered by the collective stamina of its passengers, Osher said.

If adopted internationally, such a bus could take advantage of inexpensive local construction materials. For example, in some countries, the body could be built of bamboo, he said.

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