Energy Bikes, the story

This is the story of how Time’s Up! brought energy bikes to Occupy Wall Street. We have also posted the technical details of our energy bikes and an overview of all of our work at OWS.

Time’s Up! was involved with Occupy Wall Street from its inception on several fronts: media, press, bike support, facilitation, and more. Several of our volunteers were regular occupiers. When people started to form the Sustainability Working Group, they approached our volunteers and asked us to get involved.

At the first OWS Sustainability meeting, Time’s Up! volunteers offered to bring their energy bike to the Sustainability Table at Zuccotti Park and charge people’s laptops and cell phones with green energy.

Hauling the Energy Bike to the Park
Charging Phones

As soon as we brought down the bike and set up our charging station, other working groups approached us and asked if we could build them energy bikes as well. Kitchen, media, library, medic and strong women’s tent all wanted one. We decided to design a system that could meet all the energy needs of Zuccotti Park sustainably. Time’s Up! has protest against unsustainable energy for years, but has often been criticized for not offering viable alternative forms of energy. We saw Occupy Wall Street as the perfect venue to show that we could power an intentional community with massive media and press teams, sustainably. We had plenty of volunteers eager to jump into the project, but we lacked some expertise and funding, so we reached out to Pedal Power NYC, MIT Pedal Power, Occupy Boston, and Brooklyn Machine Works. We did an energy audit of the park, designed the best system possible for OWS, and figured out that we would need about 14 bikes, which would cost approximately $15,000. Along with other working groups, we requested funding from NYCGA and through CrowdRise.

Our First CrowdRise Video

The NYCGA approved our request for $5,000, and we raised more than $10,000 in less than a week through CrowdRise. We immediately started building the system we had designed, but before we could complete it, the City seized the gas generators from OWS the night before a massive snow storm. More than 40 occupiers came down with hypothermia that night. The National Lawyers Guild sued to get the gas generators back, we kicked our outreach into high gear, and two pedal power allies from Boston designed, built and brought 3 energy bikes to New York City:


Momentum built as Time’s Up! volunteers rushed to power the square. We worked with Occupy Boston to customize the bikes for this site, welded the stands at Brooklyn Machine Works, and wired our battery boxes. Thanks to support from 130 CrowdRise donors and the GA, working together with OWS Sustainability, we helped hundreds of people pedal and take part in this great demonstration of the power of the people!

First Boston, MIT, XUP Bikes
Welding new stands at Brooklyn Machine Works

Energy Bike Update

As the 14 stands came on-line, we received tons of positive press while the greater Occupy Wall Street movement was having trouble with its image in the media. In the same week that certain news outlets were reporting slanderous, inaccurate stories about OWS, our energy bikes received positive coverage from Vanity Fair, the New York Times, the Daily News, Popular Mechanics, and countless more.

Energy Bikes on Conan O’Brien
Grandmother and Grandson on Energy Bikes

We refused to use fossil fuels to bring the bikes, stands, or battery boxes to the park. Instead, we organized several group bike rides to bring them down. We hauled the stands on the backs of our bikes, pulled the battery boxes in bike trailers, and asked volunteers from Zuccotti Park to come help us ride the bikes to Liberty Square. With one mic check, we got 14 volunteers eager to hop a train to Brooklyn and ride our recycled bikes back to the park. Thus, 14 donated bikes recycled by Time’s Up! volunteers were ridden by 14 Occupy Wall Street volunteers to Zuccotti Park, in order to begin powering the movement with sustainable Human Power!

Rolling Massive From Time’s Up! Brooklyn to Zuccotti Park!

On November 15, 2011, we installed all 7 battery boxes and 14 energy bikes to begin powering Zuccotti Park sustainably.

The Battery Boxes
The Energy Bike Stands

That night, the police raided the park and shut down Occupy Wall Street. They purportedly destroyed many of the battery boxes and energy bikes and confiscated many more. They arrested one of our volunteers, who was held more than 40 hours.

Police Destroy the Bikes Arrest Time’s Up! Volunteer
The Demolished Bike Stands

Time’s Up! volunteers took multiple days off work and recovered many of the battery boxes and energy bikes, which are now back in working order and being used for direct action and sustainable power around NYC and beyond – this is only the beginning. To hear the whole story of confiscation, arrest, and recovery, listen to that episode of the Time’s Up! Radio Hour.

All told, over 50 volunteers spent thousands of hours to design, build, install and maintain 14 energy bikes, which could generate more than 100amps each. More than 5 volunteers spent another 5 full days recovering and repairing the battery boxes and stands taken by the police, and our whole story received positive press coverage from more than 40 outlets. With your help, we plan to design and build an even more efficient system to use at direct actions around NYC. We estimate the new system will cost us another $10,000

To support this social innovation and ongoing effort, please donate here!