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If seeing a tandem bike riding by makes you momentarily pause and have a look, imagine your delay when a 15-person bicycle-truck slowly passes by.

Called the Busycle, this bicycle behemoth moves under the power of 28 human legs, plus a driver. And while it can only go about 4 miles per hour, the infectious camaraderie of its passenger power-train just might make it exhilarating.

Boston-based artists Heather Clark and Matthew Mazzotta had an idea and a lot of energy to see what they could accomplish. Starting with a $1,000 grant from the Berwick Research Institute in Roxbury, Mass., they set to work with limited engineering skills and some borrowed tools.

“We used almost all recycled, reused, and donated materials,” says Mazzotta. “Bed frames and weight equipment from Harvard’s recycling program to make the frames of the bikes, an old Dodge Van from a moving company as the base of the Busycle, parts from all the bike shops in Boston, and a Mack truck steering wheel from ‘The Foot,’ a big, bearded guy who runs a tractor-trailer junkyard. We even got some new materials like tube stock and pillow block bearings donated from different Boston businesses.”

They posted on Craigslist for anyone interested, and about 65 diverse volunteers joined the effort. “We quickly realized that the talent and support we were seeing in those that wanted to help warranted a much bigger Busycle than we had originally planned on making. And $1,000 to get space [and] buy tools and materials was not going to cut it.”

A donation from Sparqs Industrial Arts Club really made a difference; they also helped train volunteers.

On a multi-city tour this past June, the Busycle collected stories, ending each route with a storytelling session. “As for the Busycle’s future, we found that the Busycle is not a practical technology,” Mazzotta says. “The way we made it on our little budget, it goes too slow. But what it did do was bring a bunch of unique people together, all from different backgrounds, to work together.”

busycle.com

From the column Made on EarthMAKE 7, page 26 – David Albertson.