A Guatemalan NGO has unlocked the potential pedal power of discarded bicycles, converting them into practical machines that benefit the local community, transform the lives of small business owners and reduce reliance on electricity and fossil fuels.
Based in the small town of San Andrés Itzapa, high up in the Guatemalan highlands, is the organization Maya Pedal. Since their foundation in 1997, they have recycled hundreds of bicycles donated from the USA and Canada, either reconditioning them and selling them on again, or taking them apart and using the scraps to build a range of so-called bicimáquinas, (bicycle machines), which are run entirely on pedal power and can be used to carry out a huge number of different manual jobs.
Each bicimáquina is made by hand in their workshop, using a combination of old bicycle parts and simple locally-sourced materials. Their range of completely original designs includes water pumps for lifting drinking water from wells and boreholes, grinders for milling coffee and threshing corn, and even bicycle-based blenders, that can be used to produce natural soaps and shampoos from plant products, as well as for making smoothies.
The labour-saving machines are simple to operate and effective, as well as being economical too: because they function entirely without the need for electricity or polluting fuels, users can dramatically reduce their electricity bills whilst doing something for the environment at the same time, not to mention getting a bit of a workout into the bargain.
And if all of that wasn’t enough already, the organization is committed to making its designs open source, and already offers a huge number of them online, entirely for free, complete with user-friendly guides to making your own bicimáquinas at home.
For more information about how you can support the organization – either by making a donation or volunteering your time and experience – visit their official website. And to see some of their fantastical contraptions in action, check out the beautiful short film below: