Floating cycle path would connect nearly 30 Chicago neighborhoods

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The RiverRide path would be installed on the North and South branches of the Chicago River(Credit: Second Shore)

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London, UK, with its proposed Thames Deckway, isn't the only city with designs on a floating cycle path along its arterial river. If waterfront restoration firm Second Shore has its way, 28 neighborhoods in Chicago will be connected by a floating cycle path that is both covered and solar powered.

The RiverRide path would be installed on the North and South branches of the Chicago River. This would mean it would run parallel with some of the city's busiest traffic routes, helping to alleviate congestion on the roads and on existing cycle paths. It is claimed that it would also provide safer routes for cyclists within the city.

Second Shore proposes that the RiverRide would be open for use 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It suggests that other benefits would include greater uptake of cycling in Chicago, creation of jobs related to cycling and increased tourism by way of the path being a unique attraction.

The path itself would be comprised of steel-reinforced concrete pontoon sections, each 82-ft (25-m) long and 6-12-ft (2-4-m) wide. The sections would be prefabricated off-site and then floated into place on the river, before being connected together and secured with pilings driven into the riverbed.

Once constructed, the pathway would be accessed via ramps and gates connected to the riverbank and installed along its length. Second Shore suggests these would typically be close to bridges, public parks and other pertinent points, also linking up with on-road bike lanes where the RiverRide cannot be accommodated on the river itself.

Among the other features of the the RiverRide would be solar panels above each section to power lighting and precipitation-activated awnings, as well as a heated surface that would prevent the buildup of ice and snow. Railings would be installed to prevent path users falling into the river in the event of accidents.

The design of the RiverRide path is based on Second Shore's philosophy of using "readily available, existing technologies," meaning feasibility should not be an issue. While the firm says that form always follows function in its projects, it also says that the design has nonetheless been inspired by the Chicago's bridge architecture and nautical design.

Second Shore cites the Eastbank Esplanade, a 1.5-mi (2.4-km) floating pedestrian and cycle path in Portland, Oregon, as having set a legal precedent for the concept. In addition, it says its financial model is comparable to that of the 606 trail, also in Chicago.

The idea for the RiverRide cycle path first came about in 2012/13. The project has in a sense been "rebooted" this year, though, with both the Chicago Department of Transportation and riverfront real estate owners having been reengaged.

Second Shore is hoping to secure mayoral support next year and roll out a pilot project on the North Branch of the Chicago River in 2017. It is though that path would cost an estimated $5-10 million per mile to bring to fruition.

Source: Second Shore

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