Cycling Visionaries Awards – Project Details


Velo-city: a highway for bicycles

Velo-city is a highway for bicycles, a network of elevated bikeways that connect distant parts of our cities. It is a system of enclosed bikeways that shelter cyclists while making it easier to ride. The twinned bikeways are separated by direction of travel eliminating wind resistance and increasing the efficiency of cycling allowing for travel times that match any form of rapid transit.

The motor highway changed the culture of North America creating a system for automobile dominated suburbs. Velo-city is envisioned as a similar level of infrastructure for cycling that will create a tipping point for cycling and give cities back to people again. Velo-city is commuter system that helps bridge the suburban barriers and creates a continuous network of bikeways that connect distant parts of the city.

Velo-city is a breakthrough in transportation infrastructure because it is the only rapid transit system that uses human power as its primary fuel. Its innovation is using the bicycle (the most inexpensive and efficient vehicle we have) and the aerodynamic system that makes cycling easier. Each direction of travel in Velo-city has a separate bikeway tube with three lanes of traffic for slow, medium and fast travel. The separation of direction reduces wind resistance and creates a natural tailwind for cyclists, increasing the efficiency of cycling by about 90 percent and allowing for speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour. In fact, the more people that use the system, the more efficient it becomes.

Not only does Velo-city make it easier to cycle long-distances it provides shelter. One of the challenges of cycling is convincing people to brave inclement weather. In our modern cities we drive to work and drive to workout. Velo-city is like a long gymnasium between destinations; it encourages people to workout on the way to work. This saves time, energy and money.

Bicycles continue to outsell automobiles worldwide yet, with few exceptions, most cities provide little or no substantial infrastructure dedicated to cycling. Our cities provide highways for drivers; subways, buses and tram lines for transit users; even sidewalks for pedestrians; but there is little room on the road left for bicycles. Because Velo-city is elevated, it can fit within existing highway, power and railway corridors bridging unconnected parts of the city. The lightweight, noise and pollution-free system can connect other modes of transit by linking subways, railways and parking stations offering more commuting choices.

Suburban areas that are difficult to traverse by walking or cycling report higher incidents of obesity and heart disease. Urban dwellers, choked by pollution and suffer increased respiratory diseases. Velo-city is the only rapid transit system that uses human power as its primary energy source — reducing obesity while fueling mobility.

Cyclists using Velo-city understand the value of distance and its relationship to the environment because they put their own energy into their mobility. The value of this mobility is liberated by allowing for individual freedom of choice and movement.

Velo-city promotes exercise as an urban lifestyle and makes commuting a social experience. All other modern modes of transit are passive – they take users for a ride. We ride to work and then we ride to work out. Velo-city acts like a long gym between our house and our job: Why not just ride to work?

Bicycles are, inexpensive, efficient, lightweight, easy to maintain, and have been around for over 100 years. Velo-city simply gives cycling the same level of dedicated infrastructure that other modes of transportation enjoy — and doing so might just change the world.

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Chris Hardwicke

Toronto, Canada

Category: Urban Planning and Urban Design

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