I came across Dhruv Boruah and his Shuttlebike Kit equipped bamboo bike, whilst I was walking along the Regents Canal last Saturday afternoon. The Shuttlebike Kit is produced by SBK Engineering based in Italy, and I just had to stop and watch him assemble, launch and ride (sail?) it along the canal. He was gathering plastic waste which was brought back to the bank for proper disposal.
One of the reasons he does this is to raise awareness about the amount of plastic in the environment and the impact it is having. When you reach the end of this blog, and hopefully decided to ‘follow’ me (if you’re not doing so already), I would encourage you to click on the link to a short video of a presentation on the subject by Dhruv Boruah. There is also a link to his ‘The Thames Project’ website.
The Shuttlebike Kit for your bike can be carried to the launch point in a backpack.
A steel frame to mount the sponsons, or floats, is bolted to the frame of the bike.
A wheel driven air pump is used to inflate the floats which are then attached to the frame. Fishing nets are hung from the bike rack to hold the plastic items collected from the water.
The propulsion mechanism is a pneumatic drive unit fitted to the front wheel, and powered by the same wheel driven pump as is used to inflate the floats. Turning the front wheel of the bike turns the angle of the propeller creating the necessary thrust to steer the Shuttlebike on the water.
A final check of the equipment and a life jacket for the ‘rider’, and the aquabike is ready to launch.
As it entered the water, the Shuttlebike was immediately being blown away from the towpath by the breeze. Fortunately, the mooring rope had been kept hold of and it was quickly retrieved. Then it was litter picking time.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait to see him return with his ‘catch’. My memory of taking a boat along this section of canal, is of having to go in the water to clear the prop. These days it appears to have less junk in it, but still has waste and rubbish floating around and impacting the wildlife in particular. Of even more concern should be the quantity of plastic particles which can’t be seen, but are polluting that ecosystem.
This video,” Why Plastic Pollution is More Than the Last Straw” is a presentation given by Dhruv Boruah earlier this year
If you are tempted to purchase a Shuttlebike Kit, do think about the safety aspects as well and take advice as necessary. The Canal and River Trust have a Water Safety page on their website. If you look at some of the places Dhruv Boruah has taken his Shuttlebike, remember that he has been an ocean going yachtsman and, for example, when he was on the Hudson River had marine VHF radio. For most people, taking a Shuttlebike onto open water should not even be a consideration.
On most of the UK waterways, vessels have to be licenced. A good starting point for advice on this is The Canal and River Trust Customer Support Team.
If you wish to explore the canal network, one of these maps may help you to decide where to go next.
To find out more about the Shuttlebike Kit
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Many thanks, Peter.