I first designed and built an energy bike with my friend George Pingeon when we were living in the South Bronx together.
We built it mostly out of curiosity, and never really worked out the kinks until Occupy Wall Street took over Zuccotti Park. As the occupation swelled and diversified, I helped start the Sustainability Working Group, which strove to make the occupation as environmentally sustainable as possible.
It was then I had the idea to replace all of the gas generators with energy bikes and power the entire occupation with clean, sustainable pedal power.
George and I tuned up the energy bike, I biked it from my home in Brooklyn down to the park, and people began pedaling it to charge cell phones and laptops.
The energy bike was very well received.
Kitchen, media, library, medical and the strong women’s tent all wanted one. George and I made an energy map of the entire park, determined how many energy bikes it would take to produce that much power, designed an easily replicable energy bike system, and then calculated how much money it would cost to build enough energy bikes to power the whole occupation.
As soon as we finished, we crowdfunded the money to build the bikes:
We raised more than $10,000 in less than a week and immediately started building the system we had designed. Before we could complete it, the City seized the gas generators from OWS the night before a massive snow storm. More than 40 occupiers came down with hypothermia that night. The National Lawyers Guild sued to get the gas generators back, we kicked our outreach into high gear, and two pedal power allies from Boston designed, built and brought 3 energy bikes to New York City:
Momentum built as Time’s Up! volunteers rushed to power the square. We worked with Occupy Boston to customize the bikes for this site, welded the stands at Brooklyn Machine Works, and wired our battery boxes. Thanks to support from 130 CrowdRise donors and the GA, working together with OWS Sustainability, we helped hundreds of people pedal and take part in this great demonstration of the power of the people!
As the 14 stands came on-line, we received tons of positive press while the greater Occupy Wall Street movement was having trouble with its image in the media. In the same week that certain news outlets were reporting slanderous, inaccurate stories about OWS, our energy bikes received positive coverage from Vanity Fair, the New York Times, the Daily News,Popular Mechanics, and countless more.
We refused to use fossil fuels to bring the bikes, stands, or battery boxes to the park. Instead, we organized several group bike rides to bring them down. We hauled the stands on the backs of our bikes, pulled the battery boxes in bike trailers, and asked volunteers from Zuccotti Park to come help us ride the bikes to Liberty Square. With one mic check, we got 14 volunteers eager to hop a train to Brooklyn and ride our recycled bikes back to the park. Thus, 14 donated bikes recycled by volunteers were ridden by 14 Occupy Wall Street volunteers to Zuccotti Park, in order to begin powering the movement with sustainable Human Power!
On November 15, 2011, we installed all 7 battery boxes and 14 energy bikes to begin powering Zuccotti Park sustainably.
That night, the police raided the park and shut down Occupy Wall Street. They purportedly destroyed many of the battery boxes and energy bikes and confiscated many more. I tried to recover the bikes, but was arrested and held for more than 40 hours.
Through political pressure and legal action, we recovered many of the bikes, stands, and battery boxes, rebuilt all we could, and have continued to use them around NYC for various direct actions.