When Monty Python created its Ministry of Silly Walks sketch in London, the comedians could not have predicted that those oddball steps would one day power the city’s electric grid and clear its traffic-choked air. Yet a company named Pavegen is building flooring for the city that will harness the kinetic energy of footsteps and turn them into off-grid electricity.
And it’s not just London. At a football field in Brazil, players keep the lights on at night, merely by running atop the energy-converting flooring in place. At an outdoor music festival, 250,000 footsteps generated enough electricity to power 10,000 mobile phones.
If this feels like the future vision of what cities could be, that’s because influential people have already decided that it is. The idea to transform Londoners’ steps into clean air was championed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has created several initiatives to cut traffic by a hefty 44% in recent years — an especially notable achievement considering that there’s a 23% increase in people entering the city over the same time.