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Chicago in talks to build floating river bike lane

Four to seven mile long car-free park could make navigating the city faster and safer

A Chicago entrepreneur is in discussions with the city government to build an all-weather floating river bike lane four to seven miles long.

“If you look at photographs of Chicago a hundred years ago, you couldn’t throw a penny in the river without it landing on the deck of a boat or a barge. Now we’re not using the river at all,” said James Chuck, co-founder of the design-oriented infrastructure company Second Shore.

His invention, RiverRide, would see a covered, floating cycle lane installed along the Chicago river, connected to public parks and existing bike lanes.

Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, issued a challenge to his electorate to make Chicago the most “bike-friendly city” in the US.

This has led to an increase of cyclists, but without a corresponding investment in infrastructure.

If successful, RiverRide will be funded by a mix of public money and private sponsorship.

Depending on length, the path will cost around £56m to build.

“Structures like this provide the opportunity to put some habitat in urban waterways,” John Quail, director of watershed planning for the Friends of the Chicago River, a non-profit conservation group, told the Guardian.

A floating structure such as RiverRide would offer fish and other river animals shelter and protection, he said. “As native species come back, they need places to stay,” he explains. “And that requires thinking innovatively about how you use the urban landscape to recreate environmental processes.”

A year ago, we reported how inventors of the Thames Deckway entered crowd funding to attempt to build a toll-cycle-lane which floated along the Thames from Battersea to Greenwich, at a projected cost of over £600m.

By comparison, the East-West cycle superhighway, which is currently being built on the river's north side, is expected to cost just £47m for its entire 18 mile length.

The original proposal was to charge £1.50 for a single Deckway journey, but the project has so far not reached its funding levels.

Anna Hill, a co-inventor of the project, said the Thames is a resource that is currently being under used, and the Deckway, which would also generate energy through solar cells, could be ready as early as 2019.

"With the success of this campaign we're ready to go. We're now so close to making this happen; we have the engineers, we have the designs and we have a plan," she said.  


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