Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago wants to make his city the most bike-friendly city in the US. A new solar cycle path floating along the Chicago River may just help make his vision a reality.
According the the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), cyclist fatalities were up 130 per cent in 2014, with some 1,500 cyclist injuries involving cars. The CDOT also finds that 93 per cent of citizens will not ride a bike on roads with cars.
To promote cycle safety, with all its associated public health and environmental benefits – including reducing air pollution and traffic congestion, as well as the reduction of carbon emissions – many cities around the world are coming up with innovative ideas. Chicago is no different, and city authorities considering the construction of a new solar cycle path that would float along the Chicago River, called RiverRide.
The bike path would float on the Chicago river between Horner and Ping Tom Parks, for some 10 km, and be car-free for most of its length, with cyclists separated from motor vehicles at all times. The cycle path would be accessible to cyclists anytime, and in any weather conditions.
The project consists of a series of connected steel-reinforced concrete pontoon segments, produced off-site, which are floated into place and secured through pilings in the riverbed. With guardrails on each sides, each segment is 25m long by just under four metre wide, and equipped with self-activating awnings at times of rain or snow, a heating-conduit embedded into the floor to prevent icing and snow build-up, as well as solar panels, to power the awnings, the floor heating and of course any lighting.
Running along water or parkland, the RiverRide doesn’t just provide cyclists with a dedicated and safe bike route, but through the stunning views of Chicago it also offers, the project provides locals and visitors alike a different way to see the city.
Second Shore, the architecture firm behind the RiverRide, points out that as the project would rely on existing access points and bridges, its infrastructure costs can be kept down (and so can the disruption to existing urban design): the pontoon segments, which are movable and can be added on, are to be manufactured locally at the Port of Chicago, and are estimated to cost between 150 and 200 thousand USD each, with an all-in estimated cost per mile (roughly 1,600km) of 10 million USD.
Second Shore hopes to build a half-mile stretch of the proposed bike path as a pilot, by summer 2017.
Here’s a video of how it all works: