#159 Laughing all the way to work

Eric Staller is an artist with a wink. He is not just superbly talented. He also has a sense of mischief and fun.

He stopped being a gallery-and-museum artist in 1985 because the art world was stuffy and joyless. It took him five months to cover a Volkswagen Beetle with 1659 computerized lights, but when he drove it around New York City, he knew he had found his calling.

The reactions were amazing: the smiles, waves, thumbs-up, comments shouted. It was the most exhilarating experience of my life.

Staller has never looked back. He has created a Fish-O-Vision, a HolyRoller, BubbleHeads, and a Peacetank.

That’s how I learned about him. His PeaceTank has morphed into a ConferenceBike with a Web site of its own and a commercial market. The Cobi (aka ConferenceBike) is now in 16 countries.

As you’ll see in the video, a Cobi is a bike in a circle. Seven people sit at handlebars and work the pedals just as if they were on an ordinary bike. The business end of the Cobi is a universal joint with a chain hooked to rear wheels. Everyone’s efforts help propel the bike forward.

Some of the bikes are being used as school and city buses in Germany. Others substitute for motorized vehicles in car-share programs. Still others are in service for bike-to-work programs. Most have been purchased to rent to tourists.

They make me laugh. People smile and wave as they pass. Some flag them down and climb on board. What a way to build community while reducing pollution.

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