Alternative Transportation: All About Human Powered Vehicles

There are many forms of alternative transportation used by people all over the world. Human powered vehicles include both those that are used in sports and for purposes other than competition. They are vehicles that rely on energy exerted by a rider to propel them rather than a motor. Thus, their only fuel is human exertion. They always employ some type of technology that aids in their movement and defines what they are such as wheels, gears, sleds, skates and oars. Finding a suitable means of alternative transportation can help you cut down on fuel costs, add strength and conditioning to your body and enjoy a different type of movement.

Human Powered Vehicles

The most familiar human powered vehicles employ the use of wheels to propel them forward. This category includes:

  • Bicycles
  • Tricycles
  • Unicycles
  • Skateboards
  • Scooters
  • Handcycles
  • Caster boards

Bicycles being the most familiar, this type of human powered vehicle relies upon the strength of a rider’s legs to either push the device forward or operate pedals which turn gears which power the vehicle. Balance is maintained by stabilizing handlebars, or it must consist of correct upper body positioning. In some cases such as handcycles and recumbent bicycles, the rider is seated and leaning back, so balance is not an issue. Skateboards and caster boards are two examples of wheel-propelled vehicles that require upper body balance without the aid of handles.

Non-Wheel Powered Vehicles

Other types of human powered vehicles do not use wheels. Instead they rely upon specialized tracks, skates or hulls for their propulsion. Usually, too, they are used on water in either its liquid or solid form. Examples of this type of human powered vehicle are:

  • Ice skates
  • Sleds
  • Skis
  • Snowboards
  • Canoes, kayaks, rafts and other manual boats

These are often used in sporting competitions. Depending on the region of the world, however, they may be used as common forms of transport and serve a practical purpose. This type of human powered vehicle requires different kinds of propulsion. For sleds, a person must push from behind or pull it over snow and ice. Skis and snowboards depend upon gravity (for the downhill variety) or leg and arm power for cross-country skiing.

Canoes, kayaks and other manually powered boats need oars on level water, but they too benefit from gravity where water runs downhill.

Wheel/Track Combination

A vehicle that relies upon both wheels and tracks is called a draisine or railbike. It is a human powered car that rides atop rail tracks. To propel it, one or two riders either pedal or pump a handle.

There are numerous forms of human powered transportation, from bicycles to canoes. Rather than rely upon a motor for their power and propulsion, their riders use their own strength–with the aid of oars, wheels, sleds or tracks–to move it along. Human powered vehicles, in addition to getting you from point A to point B, condition your body with exercise, save fuel and give you a new way to look at the world.