Back in 2006, Warren wrote about Maya Pedal, the Guatemalan NGO that takes old bikes and converts them into bicimáquinas, or "bike machines." Since then, the organization, founded in 1997, has grown a lot, so I think it's worth taking a fresh look at the awesome work they do.
When we talk about pedal power, we're usually referring to the production of electricity, whether to power a gym or a prisoner's television. But Maya Pedal keeps it simpler than that: the machines they build use no electricity. Instead, they are individually designed to perform a certain task, like grind corn, pump water, depulp coffee beans, shell nuts, blend food and more.
As Lloyd has noted, bikes can do just about anything, and Maya Pedal is always working on new designs. (They even offer instructions for building some of their models online.) It's easy to see why the program has grown, and why Maya was a 2010 finalist for the Curry Stone Design Prize for social change.
These machines make a world of difference to local small businesses, which don't need to rely on or pay for undependable electricity, and are relieved of difficult and time consuming manual labor.
In the video below, produced by Worldwide Cycling Atlas (a group dedicated to supporting cycling initiatives), Carlos Enrique Marroquin, the head of Maya Pedal, says: "Everyday more people believe in bicimáquinas...the result speaks for itself." Agreed.