Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Pedalling Dreams

My favourite joke is one made by the comedian Bob Monkhouse. "They all laughed when I said I wanted to be a comedian", he tells his audience: "They're not laughing now."

This week I have had occasion to remember that joke because I too have been laughed at. Yes. Imagine. Me.

I have been laughed at because I have had what I consider a brilliant idea that I believe will solve three of the great public policy challenges of our time. No less! Those are, in no particular order, obesity, energy supply and climate change.

Nothing important then.

Yes, it is true. You have found me out at last: I masquerade as ZMKC, but really my name is Anne Elk, (Miss):

Anyway, leaving my earlier theoretical failings aside, my current idea is a good one, I believe.

It came to me, my idea, in case you are interested, when I was at a train station in London and I saw some people at a table pedalling energetically in order to keep the electricity going that was playing some music. I'd already seen a photograph some months before of a projected idea for a bus full of gym bicycles that people can ride on their commute to work, (which had struck me as a pretty daft idea, but no more than gyms themselves, where people will often take time off the treadmill of work to go on an actual treadmill, surrounded by others, who have made much the same choice). Just before I saw the table pedallers, I'd read a) an article about unemployment, b) an article about obesity and c) an article about how difficult it is to create energy if we give up coal.

Well, of course, you're ahead of me, I'm sure. Or are you? Perhaps, like everyone else I've suggested this idea to this week, you are not ahead of me but pouring scorn on me from a great height instead. Why though? No-one can tell me. They just reply with vague statements about my idea being absurd and ridiculous and impractical.

Oh sorry, I should explain what my idea actually is so that you can judge for yourself/have a very good chuckle.

My idea is that we employ people to ride stationary bicycles for five or six hours a day, thus giving them jobs and ensuring they are unlikely to put on weight. There will be shifts so that people are riding the bikes constantly on a twenty-four cycle, (geddit?) and the bicycles will be connected to the grid, generating energy.

My impression is that probably the largest objection to this proposal as far as most of the people I've run it past are concerned is that they regard the idea of asking people to ride bikes to create energy as demeaning, but my impression is that most jobs these days are pretty demeaning. These cycling jobs would be contributing to society in a valuable manner, the people doing them would be paid and they would also be taking care of their long term health. I think it is more demeaning to work in a call centre. But what do I know? After all I spent several months of my life as a cycle courier in Sydney and seriously considered making a career of it. I certainly enjoyed that period of my life enormously more than the horrible year I spent as a fast-streamed graduate in the civil service - remembering that experience reminds me that I must update my earlier post on scenarios that I believe could fill the role of hell.

Aaargh. I have been suppressing recollections of that civil service interlude for decades, but now all the bad memories are flooding painfully back. Offices; carpet tiles; discussion papers; meetings. Meetings, meetings, oh, the long, dull, seemingly endless meetings. If anything is demeaning, surely meetings are - achingly, unendurably so.

In fact, I submit that the tedium of meetings amounts to utter degradation of the human soul, whereas haring about on a bicycle delivering things or staying in one place pedalling, chatting to your neighbour, generating energy and getting paid to do what you might otherwise pay to do in a gym is empowering, (in the latter case, literally)

Of course, there may be some technical difficulties still to be overcome in the area of electricity generation and storage, but, if they can be overcome - and I bet they can, if they haven't been already - what exactly is so bad about my plan? And please don't all shout, "EVERYTHING!"


  1. I have often entertained similar schemes. A critic once told me that people on stationery bikes are just not big enough power generators to allow for more than a pittance of a salary. But I still don't see why desk-jockeys like me shouldn't be encouraged to pedal our way through the workday. Likewise, machines already in gyms in near constant use should be wired into the grid.

    1. I am glad you agree - & I wonder whether we (slightly loose use of that pronoun by me, given my total lack of any kind of technical skill) couldn't improve the output & the ability to gather the energy produced so that each individual's output wasn't negligible. The waste from the process beats nuclear, surely

    2. I used to have one of those wristwatches that uses the motion of your arm swinging back and forth as you walk to keep itself wound. One of the most satisfying experiences.

    3. I completely missed that piece of technology. I do wear a watch that I bought on EBay, made in the 1920s, didn't work when I got it, kind of works now, provided you are prepared to be sometimes 20 minutes late, sometimes 20 minutes early. It is very pretty and I never have to replace its batteries, which is the main thing.