Citi Bike Station in Times Square, ©

Tonight, people around the world will gaze into their TV screens, as the iconic glittering ball drops onto Times Square, ushering in a new year.  But this time, that big bright ball of celebration will be powered by energy generated from New Yorkers on Citi Bikes.

That’s right, from Saturday through Monday, pedestrians were invited to hop onto one of 6 stationary bikes at 42nd Street and 7th Avenue to pedal their little hearts out.  Through  sustainable innovation (and magical science-y brilliance) the kinetic energy from those pedal-strokes was converted into electricity that will power the New Year’s ball’s 32,000+ LED lights.

Andrew Brent, director of Citi Bikes Public Affairs, explained that the stationary bikes were connected to batteries that hold 500 watts of energy each. When people pedaled, they charged those batteries, which, at the end of Monday, were transferred to the electric grid on the NYE ball.  Even just a few minutes of pedaling generated between 1 and 4 of the 15,000 watts of energy required to light that glowing ball of joy.

“Citi Bikes have completely transformed New York City during the last year,” said Tim Tompkins of Times Square Alliance, which partnered with Citi to host the initiative. “So it’s great that they’re also transforming the New Year’s Eve Celebration and making it greener.”

It’s easy to get cynical in this wild city of skyrocketing rents, crammed with so many people day after day. But let this be a reminder that incredible things are happening, that New Yorkers are literally contributing their sweat and leg power to make the city a more sustainable place in 2014.  If that’s not a good way to start a new year, I don’t know what is.


Now if only we could connect all the stationary bikes in the city’s gyms to batteries….we could power an LED sun. Take that, real sun. And get on it, scientists.

© Charlie Hankin/ New Yorker


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