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Could Elevated Bike Lanes Make Our Cities Faster And Healthier?

Matt Shaw Matt Shaw

Remember Back to the Future II and its flying cars and skyways? Well, it’s 2014, and there’s no sign of that happening just yet. However, we may soon be seeing bikes whiz by overhead in major cities.

Elevated bike lanes are not entirely uncommon; there’s a raised track in Switzerland and roundabouts in the Netherlands and Norway. But separating bikes from car/truck traffic has become more popular worldwide, piquing the interest of politicians such as London mayor Boris Johnson and Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz. Markowitz even suggested that all bike lanes in Brooklyn should be elevated.

Proponents of the system argue that elevated lanes bypass the common problem facing bike lane creation: a lack of space available on existing streets. A raised track also cuts down on conflict between bikes and cars, decreases bike commuting times, and creates a public rapid transit system at a low cost. Elevated lanes, proponents say, are even more beneficial than the “bike superhighways” being seen in Denmark and London. And of course, any project that increases access to bicycle transit can arguably translate to a healthier, less polluted city.

Today’s elevated bike lanes are small projects that are part of larger, traditional cycling paths. However, what would happen if this idea was brought to an entire city? Here are some recent proposals that focus on this particular form of green infrastructure.

Image via Foster + Partners.

London SkyCycle by Foster + Partners, London, England

This is an extremely ambitious plan for 220 km (136 miles) of elevated bike track, lofted over existing railway lines. This is the most comprehensive of all the schemes, and would completely overhaul London’s transportation system.

Image via Treehugger.

Velo-City by Chris Hardwicke, Toronto, Ontario

Similar to the London project, Velo-City is a large-scale network of raised bike paths. This design uses clear tubes to protect cyclists from the weather and cut down on air resistance, allowing for speeds of up to 40 km/hr (24 mph).

Image via the Yarra River Business Association.

B1 Velowayby B1 Veloway Consortium, Melbourne, Australia

Envisioned as running alongside the rail viaduct, the B1 separates bikes from both cars and pedestrians and links Melbourne’s existing bicycle networks.

Bicimetro EkoBahn by Richard Moreta Castillo,

Like Velo-City, EkoBahn utilizes a tube style that allows for cross-ventilation, with traffic directions separated between vertically stacked tubes. This design also includes rental stations for manual and electric bikes and showering/changing facilities.

Image via Shweeb.

Shweeb by Geoff Barnett, Auckland, New Zealand

Shweeb is a human-powered monorail system, featuring weather-proof “capsules” surrounding recumbent bikes. A full-scale prototype is available for those interested in trying it out!

Image via Kolelinia.

Kolelinia by Martin Angelov, Sofia, Bulgaria

This system uses steel wire to guide bicycles over congested areas at heights of up to 4.5 meters (14 feet). Riders are secured using a harness and a clip on the end of their handle bar.