John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
There's "no excuse for the big man to always roll in an SUV," says the inventor of this eco-friendly holy tricycle.
Take a minute to look at the absolutely beaming face of the Pope in the above image. Although it's only an artistic rendering, I am 100 percent certain this is how happy His Holiness will be once he test-drives the world's first "pedal-powered popemobile."
After all, this is a man who rode the public-bus system for 15 years. Don't you think he'd love to show the world his commitment to sustainability by cruising around on a no-emissions tricycle? It would be right in line with the Vatican's recent moves toward greenness, what with Pope Benedict's electric car, solar panels and carbon-offset forestry program.
The blessed bike, featured recently on Urban Velo, is the work of Yannick Read, an British inventor with a passion for unorthodox vehicles – he's built one cycle that blasts motorists with a train horn and another with an ejector seat and flamethrower called BOND ("Built Of Notorious Deterrents"). Read took on the challenge of reinventing the popemobile at the urging of the Environmental Transport Association, a sustainable motoring organization with offices near London. He says the idea was "obvious when you think about," adding that there's "no excuse for the big man to always roll in an SUV."
Here's the skinny on the popecycle from the ETA:
The entirely carbon-neutral, pedal-powered Popemobile was originally commissioned by the Environmental Transport Association (ETA) after the previous pontiff, Pope Benedict, expressed his desire for a green, all-electric vehicle.
It is expected that the armour-plated pedal-powered limousine – the first of its kind in the world – will be ready for delivery later this summer.
With a price tag of £175,000 ($268,000), the pedal-powered Popemobile may cost only half the amount of the Pontiff’s current car, but it boasts just as impressive a specification. And in contrast to the current 5-litre V8 petrol-engined Popemobile, the pedal-powered version is silent and has zero emissions.
As you can see, the pope sits inside a little bulletproof cage and does not work the pedals himself, eliminating the risk of his cape being eaten by the gears. The bike has photovoltaic cells on the roof to power its A/C system, blast-proof body panels, an independent oxygen system and low-voltage spotlights in the interior to make the pope glow. The bike's average speed is 6 m.p.h., but if things ever get hairy, an electric motor kicks in and the thing zooms off at a clip of 40 m.p.h.
One Vatican employee is sufficient to provide momentum. Over at the ETA, however, commenter Calebcrawford says what we're all thinking: "I would prefer to see this with possibly three or four people pedaling the pope."
So is Francis going to ditch his four-wheel carrier for the clearly superior alternative? No word on that yet – the Holy See hasn't deigned to give him a response. "It's a serious proposal that we've emailed to the Vatican," the inventor tweets, "but understandable that its being taken as 100% April Fool."
Images courtesy of Yannick Read and ETA