Human-powered transport

Human-powered transport is the transport of person(s) and/or goods using human muscle power. Like animal-powered transport, human-powered transport has existed since time immemorial in the form of walking, running and swimming. Modern technology has allowed machines to enhance human-power.

Although motorization has increased speed and load capacity, many forms of human-powered transport remain popular for reasons of lower cost, leisure, physical exercise and environmentalism. Human-powered transport is sometimes the only type available, especially in underdeveloped or inaccessible regions.

Sherpa carrying woods
Sherpa carrying wood to Mount Everest base camp

Available muscle power

Cyclist itt cyfac(2)
Road cyclist

In the 1989 Race Across America, one team (Team Strawberry)[1] used an experimental device comprising a rear wheel hub, a sensor, and a handlebar mounted processor, to measure each cyclist's power output.

In lab experiments an average "in-shape" cyclist can produce about 3 watts/kg for more than an hour (e.g., around 200 watts for a 70 kg (154 lb) rider), with top amateurs producing 5 watts/kg and elite athletes achieving 6 watts/kg for similar lengths of time. Elite track sprint cyclists are able to attain an instantaneous maximum output of around 2,000 watts, or in excess of 25 watts/kg; elite road cyclists may produce 1,600 to 1,700 watts as an instantaneous maximum in their burst to the finish line at the end of a five-hour-long road race.



Human-powered vehicles (HPVs)

Stockholm Skateathon 2014 - 03
Skateboards are propelled by pushing (one foot riding on board, one foot pushing on ground) or by gravity
Trikke HPV
Trikkes are powered by shifting the rider's body weight

Land vehicles

Brosen city bicycle
Bicycles are the most efficient type of human-powered vehicle
Red DX Surrey
Surrey style rental quadracycle built by the International Surrey Company

Skateboards have the advantage of being so small and light that users can easily carry them when not skating.

The most efficient human-powered land vehicle is the bicycle.[3] Compared to the much more common upright bicycle, the recumbent bicycle may be faster on level ground or down hills due to better aerodynamics while having similar power transfer efficiency.

Velomobiles are increasingly popular in colder and/or wetter countries due to the protection they offer against the environment. Freight bicycles are used to transport cargo. Cycle rickshaws can be used as taxicabs.

In 2016, AeroVelo cyclist Todd Reichert achieved the human-powered speed record of 142.04 km/h (88.26 mph) with a velomobile at Battle Mountain, Nevada.[4]

Dutch cyclist Fred Rompelberg set a 268.8 km/h (167.0 mph) speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on October 3, 1995 while cycling in the wake of a motor dragster pace-car.[5] The wake of the pace-car reduced the aerodynamic drag against which Rompelberg pedalled to almost zero.[6]

Greg Kolodziejzyk set two world records recognized by both the International Human Powered Vehicle Association and Guinness (TM) World Records on July 17, 2006 on a race track in Eureka, California. The first record is for the most distance traveled in 24 hours by human power 1,041 km (647 mi), and the second for the worlds fastest 1,000 km (621 mi) time trial (23 hours, 2 minutes).[7] Both records were broken on August 6, 2010 by Christian von Ascheberg who drove 1,000 km (621 mi) in 19 hours, 27 minutes and managed to go 1,219 km (757 mi) in 24 hours with his Milan SL Velomobile. In the same race he also raised the 12-hour record to 664.97 km (413 mi), which is an average of 55.41 km/h (34 mph). [8]

In 1969, artists in a small Northern California town began the Kinetic sculpture race which has grown to a 42 mi (68 km), three-day all terrain, human-powered sculpture race and county wide event. It is held every year on the last weekend in May.


Daedalus Project's Light Eagle
MIT Daedalus human powered aircraft

The Pedaliante flew short distances fully under human power in 1936, but the distances were not significant enough to win the prize of the Italian competition for which it was built. The flights were deemed to be a result of the pilot's significant strength and endurance, and not attainable by a typical human. Additional attempts were made in 1937 and 1938 using a catapult system, launching the plane to a height of 9 m (30 ft). With the catapult launch, the plane successfully traveled the 1 km (0.62 mi) distance outlined by the competition, but was declined the prize due to the takeoff method.[9][10][11]

The first officially authenticated regularly feasible take-off and landing of a human-powered aircraft (one capable of powered takeoffs, unlike a glider) was made on 9 November 1961 by Derek Piggott in Southampton University's Man Powered Aircraft (SUMPAC).

Perhaps the best-known human-powered plane is the Gossamer Albatross, which flew across the English Channel in 1979.

The current distance and duration record recognised by the FAI, a straight distance of 115.11 km (71.53 mi) in 3 hours and 54 minutes, was achieved on 23 April 1988 from Heraklion on Crete to Santorini in a MIT Daedalus 88 piloted by Kanellos Kanellopoulos.

The current speed record is held by the Monarch B, built by a team at MIT in 1983, which won a Kremer Prize of £20,000 for sustaining a speed of over 30 km/h (19 mph) over a 1.5 km (1 mi) triangular course.

The first officially observed human-powered helicopter to have left the ground was the Da Vinci III in 1989. It was designed and built by students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California, USA. It flew for 7.1 seconds and reached a height of 8 in (20 cm). The second was the Yuri I in 1994, designed and built by students at Nihon University in Japan. It flew for 19.46 seconds and reached an altitude of 20 cm (8 in). On 13 June 2013, the AeroVelo Atlas was the first to complete a flight that lasted 64 seconds and reached an altitude of 3.3 meters, thus winning the Sikorsky Prize.

French inventors have built man-powered airships and balloons. Solar balloons and solar airships are new types of balloons and airships.[12] Because lift is supplied through buoyancy, human power can be devoted to thrust.[13][14]


A Punt Pedalo

Human-powered watercraft include prehistoric, historic and well-known traditional and sporting craft such as canoes, rowing boats and galleys. The term human-powered boat is often used for more modern craft using propellers and water wheels for propulsion. These can be more efficient than paddles or oars and especially allow the use of the leg muscles which are generally stronger than arm muscles, even for non-athletes. Competitive rowing boats use sliding seats to engage the legs for propulsion with an oar for this reason, but require considerable skill to use efficiently. In addition, there is little skill required for forward propulsion while looking forwards and craft such as pedalos are popular at resorts.

Hydrofoils have less water resistance at the highest speeds attainable by humans and are thus usually faster than displacement boats on short courses. The world speed record on water was set 27 October 1991 by MIT professor Mark Drela who pedalled a human-powered hydrofoil, "Decavitator", to 18.5 knots (21.3 mph)(9.53 meters/second) over a 100-meter course in Boston, Massachusetts, US.

In 1989, the first human-powered International Submarine Race (ISR) was held in Florida with 17 craft. Since then nine more races have been held. The races themselves have been moved from the waters of Florida to the David Taylor Model Basin at the Carderock Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and are held biennially. At the 9th ISR in 2007 (in which 23 submarines participated) several new records were set: A single-person craft, Omer5 achieved a record speed of 8.035 knots breaking the Omer team's previous record of 7.19 knots set by Omer 4 in 2004. Also Omer 6 snatched up a record for non-propeller driven craft with a speed of 4.642 knots.[15]

See also


  1. ^ "The 1989 HPV Race Across America, A Test Of Machine and Man"
  2. ^ Energy Data & Calculations
  3. ^ Science of Cycling: Human Power: page 1
  4. ^ "2016 WHPSC 200 Meter Racing Results". Retrieved 2016-09-16.
  5. ^ "The formidable record of Fred Rompelberg and its development". Retrieved 2012-04-14.
  6. ^ "152 MPH Pedal Bicycle - Intro". 1985-07-20. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
  7. ^ Greg Kolodziejzyk website
  8. ^ "Three new world records on Continental Grand Prix tires". 2010-08-06. Retrieved 2013-01-02.
  9. ^ Pedaliante
  10. ^ Man-Powered Flight - Achievements to Date With a New Suggestion
  11. ^ "Transport: Icarus to Bossi". Time. 8 February 1937.
  12. ^ Hot air balloons
  13. ^ Man-powered airship
  14. ^ Another man-powered airship
  15. ^ "International Submarine Races". Retrieved 2012-04-14.

External links




David Gordon Wilson

David Gordon Wilson (11 February 1928 – 2 May 2019) was a British-born engineer who served as a professor of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.Born in Warwickshire, England, Wilson went to the US on a post-doctoral fellowship in 1955. He returned to Britain in 1957 to work in the gas-turbine industry. He taught engineering in Nigeria from 1958 to 1960. He started a branch of a US company in London and in 1961 was moved to the US. In 1966 he joined the MIT faculty and taught engineering design and pursued a long-standing interest into human-powered transport, coauthoring Bicycling Science. He is credited, along with Chester Kyle, with starting the modern recumbent bicycle movement in the US.

In 1980, Wilson and Richard Forrestall developed a recumbent bicycle, the Avatar 2000. In 1982, Tim Gartside (Australia) rode a fully faired version as the Avatar Bluebell (UK) in a US event to a world record of 51.9 mph for 200 metres with a flying start.Wilson held more than 60 patents; in 1982, he told the Boston Globe, "It’s a bit of a pain that all I’m known for is the bike. I’m very keen on some of the other things I do." He was also active in environmental causes, proposing a forerunner to the carbon tax in 1973, and leading a group that called for a smoking ban in public places.In 2001, Wilson and Bruce co-founded Wilson TurboPower to commercialise two energy technologies developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—the Wilson Heat Exchanger, for which the company received $500,000 in funding from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative in 2008, and the Wilson Microturbine, which was described as "high-performance 300 kW microturbine [that] will dramatically improve energy economics by producing over 50% electrical efficiency." In 2010, the company changed its name and its focus, becoming the Wilson Solarpower Corporation.Wilson lived in Winchester, Massachusetts with his wife, Ellen.


Carrying on the head is a common practice in many parts of the world, as an alternative to carrying a burden on the back, shoulders and so on. People have carried burdens balanced on top of the head since ancient times, usually to do daily work, but sometimes in religious ceremonies or as a feat of skill, such as in certain dances.

Human power

Human power is work or energy that is produced from the human body. It can also refer to the power (rate of work per time) of a human. Power comes primarily from muscles, but body heat is also used to do work like warming shelters, food, or other humans.

World records of power performance by humans are of interest to work planners and work-process engineers. The average level of human power that can be maintained over a certain duration of time⁠  — say over the extent of one minute, or one hour⁠ ⁠— is interesting to engineers designing work operations in industry. Human power is occasionally used to generate, and sometimes to store, electrical energy in batteries for use in the wilderness.

Ivlia (ship)

Ivlia (bireme) is a modern reconstruction of an ancient Greek rowing warship (galley) with oars at two levels and an important example of experimental archaeology. Between 1989 and 1994, this vessel undertook six comprehensive international historical and geographical expeditions in the footsteps of the ancient seafarers.


Kayayei or Kaya Yei is a Ghanaian term that refers to a female porter or bearer. Many of these women have migrated from a rural community to any of Ghana's urban cities in search of work. They generally carry their burdens on their heads.

Kinetic sculpture race

Kinetic sculpture races are organized contests of human-powered amphibious all-terrain works of art. The original cross country event, the World Championship Great Arcata To Ferndale Cross Country Kinetic Sculpture Race, now known as the Kinetic Grand Championship in Humboldt County, California, is also called the "Triathlon of the Art World" because art and engineering are combined with physical endurance during a three-day cross country race that includes sand, mud, pavement, a bay crossing, a river crossing and major hills.

Land transport

Land transport is the transport or movement of people, animals or goods from one location to another location on land. The two main forms of land transport are rail transport and road transport.

Litter (vehicle)

The litter is a class of wheelless vehicles, a type of human-powered transport, for the transport of persons. Examples of litter vehicles include palki or पालकी (India), পালকি (Bengal), lectica (ancient Rome), kiệu (Vietnam, 轎), sedan chair (Britain), litera (Spain), palanquin (France, India), jiao (China, 轎), liteira (Portugal), wo (วอ, Chinese style known as kiao เกี้ยว) (Thailand), gama (Korea), koshi, ren, Norimono, and kago, (Japan, 駕籠), tahtırevan (Turkey) and sankayan (Philippines).

Smaller litters may take the form of open chairs or beds carried by two or more carriers, some being enclosed for protection from the elements. Larger litters, for example those of the Chinese emperors, may resemble small rooms upon a platform borne upon the shoulders of a dozen or more people. To most efficiently carry a litter, porters either place the carrying poles directly upon their shoulders or use a yoke to transfer the load from the carrying poles to the shoulders.

Mode of transport

Mode of transport is a term used to distinguish substantially different modes of conveyance. The different modes of transport are air, water, and land transport, which includes Rails or railways, road and off-road transport. Other modes also exist, including pipelines, cable transport, and space transport. Human-powered transport and animal-powered transport are sometimes regarded as their own mode, but never fall into the other categories. In general, transportation is used for the movement of people, animals, and other things. The means of transport, on the other hand, refer to the vehicles necessary for transport according to the chosen mode (airplane, ship, truck and rail).

Each mode of transport has a fundamentally different technological solution, and some require a separate environment. Each mode has its own infrastructure, vehicles, and operations.

Outline of transport

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to transport:

Transport or transportation – movement of people and goods from one place to another.

Postage stamps and postal history of Japan

The story of Japan's postal system with its postage stamps and related postal history goes back centuries. The country's first modern postal service got started in 1871, with mail professionally travelling between Kyoto and Tokyo as well as the latter city and Osaka. This took place in the midst of the rapid industrialization and social reorganization that the Meiji period symbolized in Japanese history. Given how the nation's railroad technology was in its infancy, Japan's growing postal system relied heavily on human-powered transport, including rickshaws, as well as horse-drawn methods of delivery. For example, while commemorating the 50th anniversary of Japan's postal service, the country's 1921 government released decorative postcards depicting intrepid horseback riders carrying the mail.In terms of communications, British technicians had already been employed in assisting with Japanese lighthouses, and the country's budding mail system looked to hybridize British ideas with local practicalities. Shipping along the nation's coastline in particular demonstrates a key instance of how the Japanese economy developed: the government closely working with private companies to industrially expand in a way that met social needs while also allowing for large profits. Mitsubishi's contract for mail transport by sea proved lucrative enough that it assisted with the firm becoming one of the famous "zaibatsu".Since 2007, the nation's post offices have been managed by the firm Japan Post Network, which is itself a part of the larger Japan Post Holdings conglomerate. As of December 2017, the smaller company has been managed by CEO Koji Furukawa. The simple Japanese postal mark, introduced in 1887, is still used to this day.

Pulled rickshaw

A pulled rickshaw (or ricksha, 力車, りきしゃ) is a mode of human-powered transport by which a runner draws a two-wheeled cart which seats one or two people.

In recent times the use of human-powered rickshaws has been discouraged or outlawed in many countries due to concern for the welfare of rickshaw workers. Pulled rickshaws have been replaced mainly by cycle rickshaw and auto rickshaws.

Rescue toboggan

A rescue toboggan, also known as a rescue sled, akia (also spelled ackja, akija, and akja), or emergency rescue sledge, is a carrier for transporting a person or goods on snowy or icy surfaces. It is commonly used by mountain rescue teams in winter, to evacuate an injured skier or snowboarder. There are related designs for use on water to carry accident victims or emergency equipment.

A rescue toboggan takes the form of a pulk or small sled shaped as an elongated boat-like pan, usually made of aluminum or fiberglass, with vaulted ends, each of which may be attached to forked extending handles. There are many variations and adaptations such as a brake, stability fins, and an integrated or removable litter. A particular variation may be preferred by various regions or individual ski patrollers.


Rowing is the act of propelling a boat using the motion of oars in the water by displacing water to propel the boat forward. Rowing and paddling are similar but the difference is that rowing requires oars to have a mechanical connection with the boat, while paddles (used for paddling) are hand-held and have no mechanical connection.

This article focuses on the general types of rowing, such as the recreation and the transport rather than the sport of competitive rowing which is a specialized case of racing using strictly regulated equipment and a highly refined technique.

Sedia gestatoria

The gestatorial chair (sedia gestatoria [ˈsɛːdja dʒestaˈtɔːrja] in Italian, lit. "chair for carrying") was a ceremonial throne on which Popes were carried on shoulders until 1978, and later replaced outdoors in part with the Popemobile. It consists of a richly adorned, silk-covered armchair, fastened on a suppedaneum, on each side of which are two gilded rings; through these rings pass the long rods with which twelve footmen (palafrenieri), in red uniforms, carry the throne on their shoulders. On prior occasions, as in the case of Pope Stephen III, popes were carried on the shoulders of men.The sedia gestatoria is an elaborate variation on the sedan chair. Two large fans (flabella) made of white ostrich feathers —a relic of the ancient liturgical use of the flabellum, mentioned in the Constitutiones Apostolicae— were carried at either side of the sedia gestatoria.


Sledding, sledging or sleighing is a winter sport typically carried out in a prone or seated position on a vehicle generically known as a sled (North American), a sledge (British), or a sleigh. It is the basis of three Olympic sports: luge, skeleton and bobsledding. When practised on sand, it is known as a form of sandboarding.


StreetStrider is the brand name for a mobile elliptical trainer. The StreetStrider consists of a T-shaped lower frame to which two front wheels and a rear wheel containing a drive assembly are attached, and an upright frame to which two reciprocating arm levers are attached. Two elongated foot platforms on either side of the lower frame are attached to cranks as part of the drive assembly, which, as with bicycle drivetrain systems, also includes a hub, a rotating axle, and an internal hub gear system translating the axle rotation to the hub. The StreetStrider drive assembly is either chained or chainless direct drive, depending on model. The lower end of each arm lever is attached to the front end of each foot platform, which, by connection in the rear to the rotating crank arm and in the front to the pivoting arm lever, moves generally in an elliptical path. The device also includes a leaning mechanism for steering, as well as brakes and multiple gearing. It was developed by David W. Kraus.The StreetStrider duplicates the motion of a stationary elliptical trainer in a mobile device. The rider achieves a full-body weight-bearing low-impact high-cardiovascular workout while moving outdoors. With a branded trainer stand, adult StreetStrider models can be fashioned into stationary elliptical trainers, enabling indoor use during inclement weather. The StreetStrider can be used for physical fitness, weight loss, physical therapy, human-powered transport, and outdoor adventure.

Transport in Madeira

The Madeira islands and Funchal have an extensive public transportation system. Travel between the two main islands is by plane or by ferries, the latter also allowing for the transportation of vehicles. Visiting the interior of the islands is now easy, due to major road developments, known as the Vias rápidas, on the islands during Portugal's economic boom.

European Union citizens of the Schengen Treaty area can enter the islands freely, while those from other regions need identification.

World Naked Bike Ride

The World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) is an international clothing-optional bike ride in which participants plan, meet and ride together en masse on human-powered transport (the vast majority on bicycles, but some on skateboards and inline skates), to "deliver a vision of a cleaner, safer, body-positive world."The dress code motto is "bare as you dare". Full or partial nudity is encouraged, but not mandatory. Creative expression is also encouraged to generate a fun and immersive atmosphere during the ride, capture the attention and imagination of the public and media, and make the experience more personalized and fulfilling for the riders. Body art, such as body painting, are common forms of creative expression, as well as costumes, art bikes, portable sound reinforcement systems (such as public address systems, bullhorns and boomboxes) and musical instruments or other types of noisemakers.Pre- and post-ride parties for WNBRs have become events unto themselves, often featuring musical bands, DJs, body painting, temporary structures/installation art, political tabling, and catering. In addition to simply being able to ride clothes-free on community streets, some rides have established precedent by having body-painting parties, often involving numbers of naked riders and artists in high-visibility municipal parks.This distinctive form of Critical Mass is variously described as a form of political protest, street theatre, party-on-wheels, streaking, public nudity and clothing-optional recreation, and thus attracts a wide range of participants.

Human-powered transport
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