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27 Comments

cityscape

Public Works: The Elevated Bikeway

How about putting bikes above traffic, rather than in the middle of it?

Public Works looks at public space, urban design, and city-building innovations from around the world, and considers what Toronto might learn from them.

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Image courtesy of Richard Moreto

While Toronto fusses over the wheres and whens of bike-lane building, Dominican architect and designer Richard Moreto has developed a much more advanced vision for the future of urban bike travel. He calls his idea the BiciMetro Eco Bahn. It’s an enclosed, elevated bikeway that would carry cyclists above congested streets in climate-controlled comfort.

The Eco Bahn would consist of two glass-and-steel tubes held up by posts—essentially a Habitrail for humans, which is completely awesome. There would be ramps at intervals for entry and exit, and, for full green cred, the whole thing would be topped with wind turbines and solar panels.

While there’s presently no plan to implement the Eco Bahn concept anywhere, we think a pilot project above the DVP would be a cool place to start.

Hat tip to Inhabitat.

Comments

  • http://www.metamorphostuff.com/ Ryan Day

    While I can appreciate some shelter from the elements, the completely enclosed element is a turnoff. I like being outside – that’s part of why I’m on my bike in the first place.

    • Paul Lloyd Johnson

      Perhaps there could be a halfway point, where the glass could drop down in good weather and only raise up to protect us from rain and snow?

      • Mike Anderson

        The main beauty of infrastructure like this is that, once you build it, it pretty much runs itself; operating costs are very low.

        Adding mechanical components which are exposed to the weather would make it much, much more expensive to construct–and probably orders of magnitude more expensive to operate. (And then there’s the obvious question: would you rather bike in a fully-enclosed, weatherproof tube, or a tube which sometimes leaks and gets the roadway all wet and drips on your head and…)

        • Bum

          And you obviously have experience in managing infrastructure!

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            Go outside sometime and see how well maintained our infrastructure is.

      • ehEye

        the ‘enclosure’ aspect does, i understand contribute to the speed of travel as the ‘draughting’ effect is enhanced; as this would only be practical as a ’2wheel superHighway’, the rest of the trip would be in the free air [regardless of the 'quality' thereof!].

  • matthewfabb

    Cool concept, but I can only wonder what the price tag and maintenance costs of this kind of thing would be.

  • bobloblawbloblawblah

    Cycling through the city and the rural areas is part of the joy of bike riding. I think most cyclists would look at this as nothing more than attempt to get them off the streets where they are considered a nuisance to car drivers. I don’t want to be confined to an expensive tunnel.

  • HotDang

    Cycling infrastructure doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive.

    With the money needed to build something like this, you could have a connected network of cycling infrastructure throughout the city, rather than the opportunistically planned patchwork we have.

    Using a crazy low-ball estimate of $1 million per km to build these, (neglecting operating costs), you have enough money to paint 40 km of bike lanes. With the money needed for a system of these even for something short like Hoskin-Harbord, there could be several continuous bike lanes from Scarborough to Etobicoke, and from Steeles to the lake.

    • ehEye

      makes one consider how much [$] was wantonly wasted on the Sherbourne bike”Tracks”; half the City could have had new painted bikeLanes for the same price!

      • HotDang

        That’s because Denzil Minnan Wong has to spend the cycling budget somewhere, and Ford Nation hates new bike lanes (e.g. Jarvis, Pharmacy). And sadly Cycle Toronto is complicit and encouraging the separated lanes. Their reasoning is that safer lanes do more for new cyclists than a complete system.

        The plan is to install them on Wellesley – Hoskin – Harbord next, which will cost untold millions.

  • wklis

    Simple solution: ban cars from the downtown, or charge motorists a fee to go downtown like they do in London, England.

  • Phil

    Cool but defeatist – one goal of urban planning should be to put those modes of transport that improve the ambience of the city on the ground, and move, reduce or eliminate those that are noisy and dangerous.

    That is to say – it is more desirable to have bikes on the street near pedestrians than automobiles. So we should be looking at ingenious solutions for getting cars off city streets, either by reducing their numbers, or by putting them in tunnels underground, not bikes.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    Which came first, BiciMetro or Velo-City (which I swear Torontoist covered once before, but I can’t find a post on it)?

    • Eric S. Smith

      Velo-City was featured in Spacing #4, 2005, if that helps.

  • Bum

    Cyclists in TO really live in tvisted reality…

    • linked1

      See what I mean?

  • http://scorcher.org/ Jym Dyer

    • At last, a bike path Rob Ford can’t park on!

  • jsallen

    Bicycling is most practical for trips which are long enough to justify the time overhead for parking, also loading and unloading if carrying baggage — but short enough that the higher overhead time/cost of a trip by public transit, taxi or a private motor vehicle is not justifiable: generally trips between 0.5 and 10 km. Bicycling also, like walking and private motor vehicles and taxis, is flexible in the trip endpoints it can serve. What Moreto has proposed is a kind of bicycle throughway, a linear facility with a limited number of entry and exit points. That is inherently impractical for the type of trip which bicycling serves best. As to the cost of constructing, maintaining and climate-controlling an entire enclosed travelway (rather than only buses running on streets or rail cars running on tracks), well, just imagine — not to metnion the issue of policing when traffic is light. This type of facility gets proposed repeatedly but not built. See this critique of an earlier proposal, for example.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      Cars are pretty flexible, able to go anywhere there are roads, and used for all lengths of trips including those under 10km, so why are highways (with limited access points) always so busy? Because highways, like these bikeway proposals, are an opportunity for longer journeys without the stop-and-go interruptions (and risks) of regular routes. If your A and B are 10 or more kilometres apart, and it’s a regular trip you take (such as to work or school), a bikeway like this would facilitate that trip and grant access to areas along the way one might never have reached on bike because of discouraging hazards or conditions.

      This isn’t to say an elevated bike path, of any given configuration, is the best solution, but the idea does have merit.

      • jsallen

        Cars go faster on limited-access highways, and all travel at approximately the same speed. Bicycles don’t go any faster because there is a bicycle highway, Unless there is enough width for easy overtaking with heavy bicycle traffic, the pace is set by the slowest bicyclists. Grade-separated intersections do reduce travel time, but these don’t re. No risks — in an enclosed tunnel with no escape? Then the bicycle highway only picks you up and drops you off at a limited number of points on a linear corridor.. A limited-access bicycle highway makes sense between two endpoints (such as the ends of a long bridge) where it doesn’t make trips between most endpoints *longer*.

        • tyrannosaurus_rek

          Cars do not travel at the same speed on the highway, there is a constant adjustment according to volume. I’m not sure why you think there would be little to no passing in a bike tunnel, or that it wouldn’t be designed and built with passing in mind. I also did not say there are no risks cycling in such a structure, but it certainly removes some typical risks – like being hit by a turning truck, or doored, or colliding with a jaywalking pedestrian, or getting your tire caught in a track, or hitting a pot hole, etc – from the journey. And what does the likelihood of funding have to do with the merit of it? It would hardly be the first time a gov’t chose not to spend money.

          • jsallen

            Cars travel at nearly the same speed on a highway at any given time and place. That’s what I meant, and I think that my meaning was obvious enough. Bicyclists have a preferred level-ground travel speed over a 3-to-1 range, from about 13 to 40 km/hr. As to your claims of how the bike tunnel would be built, there’s enough trouble just getting conventional bike lanes and paths built to reasonable and safe standards.

    • Sharkbait

      Dunno. The concept of a bike freeway works really well in Holland, where you can get on your bike and ride out to the next city without having to tango with cars. They are even numbered, and signed, and have junctions, so you can easily find your way. Tons of people use them. I think if given the chance in N/A people would use an inter-city bike network for longer trips.

      Part of building cycling infrastructure for transportation is acknowledging that there are different ways of using said transportation.

  • ehEye

    this looks like a really expensive version of the “veloTube”; nice but could be done in a much less resource intense way?

  • linked1

    It’s ideas like this that give cyclists, designers, and environmentalists a bad name

    • linked1

      The essence of cycling is it’s simplicity and efficiency. This kind of folly defeats that entirely. It also fails to acknowledge that cyclists like being outside, not stuck in a tube that you need to take an elevator to get to.