Pedal power to light up Times Square New Year sign

NEW YORK Wed Dec 17, 2008 6:52pm EST

NEW YORK Dec 17 (Reuters Life!) - The ritual dropping of the ball in New York's Times Square on New Year's eve, seen on television by millions around the world, is becoming a bit greener than in years past.

The 2-0-0-9 sign that will light up when the New Year's ball finishes its descent will be powered by batteries charged by people pedaling on bicycles.

"This is our way of involving consumers in the whole process of powering the 2009 lighting when the ball drops on New Year's Eve," said Kurt Iverson, spokesman for Duracell, a unit of Procter & Gamble Co and which supplied the batteries.

Duracell has set up a "power lodge" in Times Square where visitors are ushered to a row of bicycles with generators connected to a set of massive batteries.

So far the project has collected 95 hours of pedal power, or about 35 percent of the total needed, Iverson told Reuters.

The power is generated from old-fashioned rotary technology -- pedal power and spinning wheels.

"We estimate our goal is to get 230 hours of people doing the cycle over the course of December and then we will have enough charge in the batteries for at least 10 to 15 minutes during the live telecast," said Iverson.

Apart from being able to say they were physically part of the Times Square New Year celebrations, guests who jumped on the bikes said the experience was educational.

"It's pretty awesome," said Elise Sorenstein from Queens as she pedaled. (Editing by Maggie Fox and Eric Walsh)