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So, BMW Wants to Build Networks of Elevated Cycling Paths

In its first century as a company, BMW has made industrial engines, motorcycles, Steve Urkel’s Isetta, and a whole lot of cars. Now, it wants to build something wholly new: an raised bicycle path.

This week, the automaker’s somewhat redundantly named Research, New Engineering, Innovations division, based in Mountain View, Tokyo, and Seoul, exposed its notion of constructing a network of motorcycle paths above street level. It’s called the E3 Way–that’ s for elevated, electric, and efficient–and BMW says it could help developing metropolis everywhere fight congestion and ease emissions by making cycling a safer, more convenient, and thus more popular style to get around.

Conceived with help from the School of Automotive Study and College of Design and Innovation at Tongji University in Shanghai, this network “wouldve been” set aside for electric bikes and two-wheelers( like the BMW Motorrad X2 City, a battery-powered scooter ), and it would have a hasten limit of 15.5 mph. If you’re wondering why regular, human-powered bicycles don’t seem welcome–well, BMW doesn’t induce those.

Like a well-designed highway, the E3 Way would feature ramps and sluice systems to handle merge. Video surveillance and artificial intelligence would monitor the flow of traffic, because what kind of future would it be without constant surveillance and AI? Most of the network will have a roof( no worries about rainy days ), and a “cooling system with purified rainwater[ that] generates pleasant temperatures, ” whatever that intends. It’s a lovely eyesight: Instead of doing battle with cars and pedestrians and whatever else on the street, cyclists get their own safe haven, where they can zoom along, stopping merely to pity the poorest of the poor folks below.

That’s all well and good, but even for a theory, BMW is amazingly cavalier about what it takes to build infrastructure on this scale. “The best thing is that its modular intend and free scalability build the notion essentially suitable for use in any megacity, ” the company proclaims in a press release. “The elevated street is simple and modular in designing,[ and] economical to build as a result.”

Real world attempts to elevate bike paths suggest otherwise. In January 2014, to much fanfare, celebrated architect Norman Foster unveiled a plan for a network of aerial cycleways in London, called SkyCycle. Nearly 140 miles of elevated, car-free, 50 -foot-wide bike tracks would connect six million people, accommodating 12,000 riders an hour. In 2016, one of the project’s presidents told cycling website BikeRadar that the $10.7 billion iinfrastructure project was still in the works, but there are no visible signs of progress.

The places that have made elevated bike paths work are those that have reined in their desires. In January, Xiamen, in southeast China, opened the world’s longest example, which stretches simply under 5 miles. In the Netherlands, Eindhoven’s “Hovenring” has lifted cyclists above a busy intersection since 2012. Copenhagen’s “Cykelsangen”( that’s Danish for “cycle snake”) is just 721 feet long, but lets the city’s many bikers pedal over a waterfront shopping area, instead of promoted through its concourses of pedestrians. Which is to say, the idea seems to work best when applied as a solution to a very localized problem. Lofting a route over an intersection is pretty easy. Moving the entire network of bicycle paths into the sky demands a gargantuan amount of planning, political will, and cash.

This idea actually dates to the 19 th century, when Horace Dobbins of Pasadena, California, wanted to build an elevated path( made of pine and painted green) between his city and Los Angeles, accusing 10 cents to journey. He constructed the first mile of what he hoped would be a nine-mile street, but, as Carlton Reid recounts in his volume Roads Were Not Built for Cars, he faced rival from streetcars and railroads, and never got the remainder constructed. “I have concluded that we are a little ahead of time on this cycleway, ” Hobbins told The Los Angeles Time in 1900.

Try a century ahead of day, and then some. Well into the new millennium, unbearable congestion, planet-killing emissions, and an increasingly urban world are increasing demand for a new lane of moving around. Demand so strong, even automakers like the one build the ultimate driving machine are looking to get into “mobility, ” not only cars. BMW, of course, isn’t diving into the infrastructure business. This is a concept, a lane of saying Ve are hip, ya! But clearly, the forces now rebuilding the auto industry aren’t yet quite strong enough to making such a company do something genuinely daring–like moving automobiles off the streets, and letting cyclists stay safe on the ground.


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