Kevin Blake likes 'not filling up a tank of gas for a snowplow.'
Some years back, Kevin Blake was building a three-wheeled recumbent bike when he got an idea: "What if I stuck a plow blade on the front?" That would give him a pedal-powered snowplow. Relates Blake, "It turned out to be a little more complex than that."
In the end, the snowplow Blake built uses the chassis and gearbox of an old riding lawnmower, with a drive train, cranks and bottom brackets from cast-off bicycles, pushing a couple of regular snow shovels.
"Honestly, if there's one to four inches of light snow, it's easier to just shovel," says Blake, who lives in Sun Prairie. And if there's over six inches of really wet snow, it doesn't work very well either. But with regular snowfalls between four and eight inches, that's a "sweet spot" for the pedal-plow.
Blake, a mechanical engineer at Trek Bicycles in Waterloo, says the pedal-plow makes it possible to move the snow using leg power instead of straining his back. It doesn't use any gas or electricity, and it's good exercise.
There are a number of drawbacks, though. Blake's device only plows snow; there's no way to hoist it over the large snow banks that most Wisconsinites are all too familiar with. But Blake has ideas for improving the plow. And he thinks making a small one for kids to do sidewalks with would actually make them want to help with the shoveling.
Personally, Blake "likes feeling good not filling up a tank of gas for a snowplow," but he knows that one guy with a pedal-powered snowplow is not going to save the planet. On the other hand, he says, "little stones can make big waves. The revolution is going to have to come from people doing stuff like this in their garages."