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A bike for Beijing

Updated: 2013-04-02 09:17
By Xu Lin ( China Daily)

While other people armor up in masks to battle the smog, Matt Hope has a better solution. He shows off his 'anti-pollution' bike to our reporter Xu Lin.

Matt Hope joins the Beijing brigade of cyclists on the road each day, but his bicycle is special. It looks like a prop out of an off-mainstream sci-fi movie, and it attracts much attention and not a little alarm every time he rides out on it.

The 37-year-old Beijing-based artist is a natural facilitator, and has been "inventing" contraptions since he was a student.

His homemade-in-China bicycle has a respirator attached, and when he puts it on and starts cycling, electric sparks fly from the back wheel. A passer-by excitedly shouts "fadian!" in Chinese, which means, "he's making electricity".

"People are always talking about the bad weather. I think it makes sense to create a bike that cleanses the air for the person riding it," says Hope, who is originally from London, and now has a 200-square-meter studio in Caochangdi Art District, next to Beijing's Fifth Ring Road.

Hope graduated from the Winchester School of Art in London and then attended the University of California, San Diego. He became an artist in 2004, and is very much into experimental art, some of which is very inventive.

"The idea is to make people think about individual strategies to tackle problems. When something breaks, I try to fix it. The bike is me trying to 'fix the air'. Rich people can have expensive air filters, but I cannot afford them, so what should I do?" he says.

A bike for Beijing

Matt Hope and his homemade-in-China bicycle at his Caochangdi studio in Beijing. Sun Peng / China Daily

Hope's respirator on two wheels uses the same principle as power stations in cleaning up the air. As the cyclist pedals, a mini-generator attached to the back wheel creates electricity for the high-voltage transformer in front that generates a static charge called the corona charge.

A mesh container attached to the pannier rack attracts dust particles, which stick to a metal trumpet. The air, now cleansed, is propelled along a tube to the mask that the cyclist wears.

Hope bought the bike from the supermarket for 200 yuan ($32), the cheapest he could find. Other parts were from the "pile of junk" he has collected in his studio. He is a great collector of broken things, and he takes them apart and utilizes the parts for other projects.

"It's both interesting and satisfying to reuse broken things, because I can give them new lives or make them different," he says.

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