The Chicago river runs alongside some of the busiest streets in the city running from densely populated neighbourhoods to the downtown area. The streets that run parallel are some of the busiest and the site of many bike crashes.
Chicago has begun to consider installing a series of floating solar-powered bike paths along the river in order to provide riders with a car-free experience for part of the commute before re-connecting with existing bike paths. The project is being developed by SecondShore and is called RiverRide.
“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,” says Chuck, co-founder of the design-oriented infrastructure company Second Shore.
In the past five years, Chicago has added 100 miles of new bike lanes and by 2019 plans to add another 50 miles of better lanes with curbs to protect cyclists from traffic. Using the river to create a path goes a step further providing safety for cyclists away from the cities busy street. A move that planners hope will encourage more people to commute by bicycle.
RiverRide will be built using structural concrete technology currently used for pontoons. The floating segments will attach at either end to the bank or bridges. The blueprints include the option of solar-powered lighting and a retractable roof to facilitate 24/7 use whatever the weather.
The bike path could cost as much as $5 to $10 million for each mile of the pathway with SecondShore hoping to implement a pilot project by the summer of 2017 and begin installing sections in 2018. The final project would run six to eight miles connecting more than 20 miles of Chicago.