April 1 - Amid record-breaking levels of air pollution, a Beijing-based British artist has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect himself against the city's foul air while making a political point at the same time. Matt Hope has come up with what he calls the ''breathing bicycle'', a contraption that's both protecting his lungs and turning heads. Ben Gruber has more.
For the smog-bound denizens of Beijing, British artist Matt Hope is a statement on wheels. On his bicycle, Hope can go anywhere he likes while breathing clean air at the same time. Hope designed and built what he calls the "Breathing Bicycle". He put it together with a small generator attached to the rear wheel, a garbage can and a fighter pilot breathing mask connected to a home filtration system. The system feeds off the energy produced while Hope is riding the bike. He says the breathing bicycle was initially designed as a static exhibit to make an artistic point about Beijing's pollution problem. But after completing it Hope says he knew he could get more mileage by taking it to the streets. (SOUNDBITE)(English) BRITISH ARTIST MATT HOPE SAYING: "I pulled the parts together to make something that would make people think about the problem, they can visually get sense of what are thinking about. This is kind of prevocational prototype. I don't think it can really solve the pollution problem of this because pollution is still being made. You need to cut off the source rather than filter it." It's a problem growing steadily worse in big Chinese cities like Beijing. The country's decades-long drive for rapid economic growth has come at a cost. The unchecked use of fossil fuels has turned Beijing's air into a polluted soup, hundreds of times more toxic than the minimal clean air levels defined by the World Health Organization.. Hope says his biggest surprise has come in the way people on the streets respond to his bike. (SOUNDBITE)(English) BRITISH ARTIST MATT HOPE SAYING: "Yeah, I am mean I think it's supposed to be funny, and I am a bit surprised people take it seriously because this suppose to be like, not a joke, but it's a serious problem but it can't like a ridiculous solution, obviously it's really, very practical. I mean it's pretty archaic but burning coal is pretty kind of archaic too. It's kind of like ridiculous solution for a ridiculous problem." And while the Chinese Government is taking steps to clean the air, it's a problem that could take many years to solve. Matt Hope says he's doing his small part in an effort to help others breathe easier.