The SecondShore bike path may give cyclists in Chicago a better commute.
Chicago is becoming a great place for cycling enthusiasts to live. Over the past five years, the city added 100 miles of new bike lanes. And, as Fast Company points out, another 50 miles of “better” bike lanes are intended to be added by 2019. The ultimate aim of installing bike paths is to offer commuters a safe alternative from busy roads with curbs and dangerous cars. Now, Chicago is going one step further by working with the architecture firm SecondShore to to create a series of floating, solar-powered bike paths.
The bike paths, called RiverRide, are intended to be constructed along the Chicago River, a landmark that doesn’t get a lot of attention nowadays. Says entrepreneur James Chuck of SecondShore:
“You look at the river, and while it used to be the main commercial artery in the city, it’s not much of one anymore. This fits with the mayor’s general economic strategy for the city—how do we make use of latent infrastructure?”
In addition, the river runs from densely populated neighborhoods to downtown, therefore, is an ideal route for a bike path to be installed. Chuck argues that bike lanes aren’t enough for city commuters, as most crashes tend to happen at intersections. He states,
“In reality, 55% of crashes and fatalities happen at intersections, and you can’t create a divided lane for bikes at intersections.”
RiverRide would become the safest place for people in the city to ride their bikes. Not only would it allow them to avoid the possibility of colliding with cars, they’d escape harmful fumes from vehicle exhaust.
A 17-mile stretch of continuous bike paths would be created, connecting 28 neighborhoods. The RiverRide would connect with existing bike lanes to make use of past investments. Though Chicago isn’t the safest city in the nation, one could cycle at night on the floating path thanks to solar-powered lighting. The company relays that solar panels could also heat the surface, ensuring the path doesn’t get icy and preventing injuries. Rectractable awnings could also be rolled out to protect riders from rain or snow.
One of the main hurdles standing in the way of the RiverRide from being developed is the cost. Each mile of pathway would cost between $5 and $10 million. Some individuals, including Chuck, believe that it’s a worthy investment, however. Citing the fact that 90% of Chicagoans don’t feel safe biking in the city, he says that more people would be convinced to bike to work or school if a safe path was developed. He explains,
“Let’s say 10% of that 90% group decided, ‘Hey, I love RiverRide; I’m willing to go out on my bike right now. We’ve doubled the number of riders in the city.”
At present, a pilot project to develop 1/2 mile is in the works. It will likely be created by the summer of 2017 in Chicago’s 33rd Ward. Those who are in the area will be able to try out the basic iteration of the path and give designers feedback on the system. If the idea is supported, it could be installed in segments beginning in the spring of 2018. All in all, the path would be 6 to 8 miles of floating pontoons.
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