Pedaling and Charging

People multitask (in economists’ language, “engage in joint production”) in a surprising variety of ways.  A neat example appeared in Brussels Airport, with a sign saying “charge your phone and laptop.” But the charging was done by you sitting on a saddle and pedaling a machine that generated the power charging your device.  This combination of activities illustrates the difficulty in classifying activities:  Was it work or was it leisure (exercise), to pick two of the major aggregates that I use in my research?  Was it an investment of time or was it consumption?  In this and many other ways, changing technology renders rapidly obsolete the categories we have created to classify things and activities.


Warsaw airport has the plane technology where passengers can all pedal and in the aggregate generate enough power to fly the plane- so far, tho, they fly pretty slow...

Eric M. Jones.

It is silly consumption. Pedaling for a thousand years would not generate the energy used to make the machine. A simple power supply plugged into the wall is much better.


Maybe it's silly if you think of it as only a means of generating electricity. If you think of it as primarily exercise, with the electricity as a side effect and/or means of encouraging exercise, it's perhaps not so silly after all. What's the avoided cost of even one case of deep vein thrombisis?

Erik Dallas

Even if you viewed the bike as exercise equipment / leisure / luxury / entertainment; and were to only analyze the energy use to make the additional electric motor / electric generator / the spinning coils of copper and the magnet this is going to be a net consumption of energy not an energy producer. Sit on a bike and plug the phone into the wall, it is not that hard.

Enter your name...

I think that if economists had spent more time studying women's activities, they'd have solved this long since.

How would you have classified quilt making? Is that leisure, because the top was designed and pieced while chatting with the family in the evening, after the day's necessary chores were done? Is it home production, because the quilt's most likely use was to keep the family warm at night? Is it social, because the quilt was mostly stitched during a neighborhood party? Is it education, since the daughters of the family were taught sewing skills during its construction? Is it consumption, because it used new batting and thread? Is it recycling, because the tops used scraps from other projects and bits of worn-out clothes? Is it asset production, because the quilt could be (and frequently were) sold if the family ever needed some cash on short notice? Is it asset protection, since wet quilts were a significant way of protecting buildings from wildfires? Is it a status symbol, because only women who had time and money made them, and because fancy or artistic quilts showed off her skills and taste?

If economists had worked out the methods necessary to answer these questions a century ago, rather than assuming that farm wives were unimportant, do-nothing appendages belonging to their husbands, then you'd have no trouble answering your question today.



Where you're from might influence your view of this quite significantly. The Belgians LOVE cycling. Long history of it. More than 68,000 people at the last cyclocross world championships in Koksijde. I'm not saying that means they would all view this as fun; but you never know.

Luca Fenu

Tried it yesterday. It's a neat idea, especially since until now in Brussels airport there are no available plugs. However, the bikes are so uncomfortable and the resistance to pedaling so low that it makes the whole thing a bit of a mess...