Audio: Bicycle Highways in the Sky

From last week’s Smart City radio program:

Imagine this: Bicycles traveling at speeds up to 50 miles per hour in enclosed tubes hanging above the streets. That’s the vision of Chris Hardwicke, a Toronto architect who is promoting his idea as Velo-City.

It’s worth a listen (it’s the first segment in the show’s audio file [mp3, 14M]). But I find a flaw in the logic. The idea is that we’ll build grade-separated bikeways because we can’t remove auto lanes to fit in bike lanes. But the only way I can see us making that level of investment in bicycle infrastructure is in a world of very expensive gasoline. Of course, if gasoline is that expense, we should have plenty of auto lanes to turn into bikes lanes. I think I’ll plan to stay on the ground for now. Not that it’s not a cool idea.


One response to “Audio: Bicycle Highways in the Sky”

  1. I’m all for investing in public infrastructure that supports bike use but this sounds like something out of the Jetsons or a 1950s sci fi book, not a serious proposal.

    It strikes me that (1) many bikes and bicyclists may not be very stable at 50 mph; (2) the fact that you can go 50 doesn’t mean you are willing to risk a spill at 50; (3) when you do fall off you are going to be flat on the ground with a 30 mph wind practically pinning you there, while other bikers try to avoid hitting you.

    The more you think about it the less sense it makes… for speed you need separation (just like for cars). To get enough separation you need lanes. Lanes start to take up space… There are traffic engineers who have the formulas for you.

    As we know from freeways, the effort to move lots of people fast eventually bogs down as more and more users attempt to use the resource. The ultimate result, one can imagine, with some humor, a congested bike tube, with people noodling along a crowded bikeway at 5 mph and a 25 mph wind at their back! Kind of funny, except when you think of the money spent to produce that ridiculous situation.

    I have a better idea. Since speed is ultimately a way of coping with distance, it is really just compensation for poor spatial planning. How about just designing cities so that things are within reasonable distance at normal biking and walking speeds in the first place?

    Or perhaps the only way we can make a low technology solution work (the bike) is to design some high tech investment strategy that can be implemented by Bechtel? Hmmm.

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