Belsize eco boys put pedal to the metal

SONIC curtains, solar powered torches and using kangaroo bacteria to offset cattle methane are among some of the wackier scientific innovations to have been suggested by environmentalists over the years.

But a group in Belsize has come up with something just as optimistic in the hope it will bring an element of sustainability to seasonal celebrations next month: pedal-powered Christmas lights.

Fitzjohn’s Avenue resident Farokh Khorooshi is playing the role of lead engineer in a project to hitch up an old-fashioned exercise bike with a big flywheel and several dynamos to the Christmas tree in England’s Lane so that passers- by can jump on, pedal and generate enough power to keep the LED-lit pine tree illuminated.

He said: “Anyone who goes past the tree and sees it’s not lit up can get on the bike and have a go. It’s pedal power. This is a community idea to see if we can light it ourselves.

“We understand that a human being can produce 150 watts of electricity per hour if they pedal constantly. This would be enough to produce enough electricity to power the lights for four hours. So one hour of pedalling is enough for four hours of light.”

The idea is a product of the environmental group Transition Belsize and is now being handled by an offshoot called the Belsize Energy Project, of which Mr Khorooshi is a leader.

They are now appealing for members of the community to come up with the goods and donate any unwanted dynamos, old or new, and of course the all-important ingredient: the exercise bike.

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Mr Khorooshi is going to create a system that converts the energy produced in the dynamos into electricity to be stored in a 12 volt battery that powers the Christmas tree lights.

If the plan is successful and gets the thumbs up from Camden Council the system will be unveiled on December 3. So far it has received a mixed but, in places, enthusiastic response.

“Everybody rolls their eyes, but they are fascinated by it,” said Mr Khorooshi. “The traders are very much in favour. We are hoping to get the community engaged. Children can get on and have a go and if someone is going to the gym why not stop by and have a go on the bike and do something useful?”

Transition Belsize coordinator Alexis Rowell said the group has applied to the Camden Communities Green Fund for a number of things including a bike-powered generator.

“We are currently looking for an old exercise bike, a small 12volt generator and a battery,” he said.

The group has now approached Camden Council about the idea for the Christmas tree and formal discussions are due to be held in the coming weeks – in part to ensure the project is entirely safe and that the bicycle can be secured to the rack in England’s Lane so it cannot be stolen by any mean-spirited thieves.

Anyone who wishes to donate an exercise bicycle or dynamo lights can contact Alexis Rowell by emailing The Belsize Energy Project is holding an expo at St Stephen’s Church on November 20 from 11am to 5pm.