Roll Over America, Here Come the Velos!

What weighs less than 50 pounds, is aerodynamic and leaves no carbon footprint?  Velomobiles. Over 50 of them (recumbent human powered vehicles) have crossed the U.S coast to coast, from Portland, Oregon to Washington DC at an average of 125 miles per day.  The riders or velonauts as they call themselves are part of the first transcontinental velo tour across America (ROAM).  The participants come from Europe, Canada and the U.S. and what separates them from the rest is that they are riding in state of the art human powered vehicles.

The ROAM team captain is Josef Janning, a velonaut himself who’s devoted much of his life to promoting alternative commuting methods, healthy lifestyles and creating bike-friendly communities. “We are passionate bikers, bike commuters, and have experienced the many benefits of cycling for health, the environment and the family budget. That‘s why this tour is a pledge for bike-friendly communities, be it in cities or out in the country” commented Josef.

Velomobiles are not entirely a new concept, in fact, they have been around since the early 20th century.   By the early 1900’s there were various concepts of three and four wheeled “velo-cars”.  This early beginning did not have such a great future as the bicycle, however, in the 1970’s there was a revival of the velomobile as a safe, efficient, reliable and zero impact vehicle. A new era in human powered vehicles began.   Velomobiles are clearly a good alternative to commuting in gas powered vehicles.

Recent use of light and strong materials such as kevlar, carbon fiber and aluminum have allowed for the construction of extremely light, durable and aerodynamic fairings which cover the recumbent.  These fairings allow riders to commute in all weather by providing fully or partially enclosed cabins, great visibility, maneuverability (steering and breaking) and safety.   The new line up of velomobiles is more formula one-like designs that incorporate navigation systems, easy operation, lights, low maintenance, aerodynamic superiority, and most important of all, no gasoline or mechanic bills.    So, who’s riding the new velomobiles, athletes?

“We are ‘normal’ people from all walks of life that simply like to bike. It’s amazing what humans can achieve with some regular exercise”, says Janning, a long-time bike commuter himself.

Josef’s dream to cross America with a large group of velonauts has come true.  The tour has taken them through 15 states, starting in Portland Oregon on July 28th and arriving at Washington DC on August 24th 2011.  The Tour was supported US and European companies such as DHL, Schwalbe and Clif,  who’s commitment to reducing the CO2 footprint made them solid partners from the beginning.

ROAM sends an important message to people around world: we must start using bicycles as a means of transportation.  Not only will this practice improve our health but will also have benefits to cities that will discover the power of bike-friendly communities.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Bike Caucus in the US Congress and an avid cyclist himself, has called ROAM 2011, “An exciting tour that will showcase the benefits and practicalities of velomobiles for long-distance travel as it brings national visibility to the health, fuel-efficient, and environmental value of human-powered vehicles. Whether you’re on two wheels or three, headed to the neighborhood store or across the country, human-powered vehicles — in their many forms — are the most efficient means of transport ever devised.“

The ride-to-work movement just got stronger…join now!

Update:  The 50 velonauts and their incredible machines are arriving this afternoon (Wednesday 24th of August).  If you’re in DC, come greet them at the Capital Cresent Trail entrance in Georgetown. Follow Josef’s tweet for arrival updates

Changing Planet

Fabio Esteban Amador is an archaeologist, science communicator and visual artist. He uses visualization tools to get people excited about seeing, understanding and preserving their world and history. He is currently using gigapan technology, underwater imaging systems and aerial photography and video to capture art and culture around the world. Lately he has focused in the development of a new concept, strategy and workshop called the Art of Communicating Science, aimed at using creativity and visual technologies in exploration, discovery and story telling. He started his career as an art student at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and followed his interests in becoming an expedition artist by graduating as an archaeologist from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Lately, he has focused on the archaeology and exploration of caverns in Quintana Roo, Mexico, photo-mosaicking shipwrecks in Latin America and the Caribbean and capturing images and video from aerial platforms to document archaeological sites to create digital elevation models. Amador’s continued effort in communicating science has allowed him to use photography, cinematography and other multi-media tools to reach large audiences through his public lectures at universities, presentations at international scientific and professional symposia, publications in scholarly journals and on National Geographic’s Explorers Journal and NatGeo News Watch online blogs. Currently, he is a senior program officer for the National Geographic Society / Waitt Grants Program, promoting and coordinating scientific and exploratory research around the world. He is also an associate research professor at George Washington University and Executive Director and President of Fundacion OLAS, an organization devoted to capacity building for Latin American scholars dedicated to the study and preservation of the submerged cultural heritage.