Chicago has created 100 miles of new bike lanes in the last five years and plans to add another 50 miles of upgraded lanes with curbs to protect riders from cars by 2019. Beyond that, a series of floating, solar-powered bike paths along the edge of the Chicago River is on the drawing board; each mile of pathway may cost between $5 million and $10 million.
The architecture firm SecondShore first proposed the idea. “You look at the river, and while it used to be the main commercial artery in the city, it’s not much of one anymore,” says firm cofounder James Chuck. “This fits with the mayor’s general economic strategy for the city—how to make use of latent infrastructure.”
The floating bike paths, named RiverRide, would give pedalers a truly auto-free place to ride for part of their commute and connect with existing bike lanes. The system would fill gaps in the network, creating around a 17-mile stretch of continuous bike paths connecting 28 neighborhoods.
Floating on concrete pontoons, the paths would use solar power for lighting. Solar panels could also heat the surface so the path doesn’t ice in winter. Plans call for the path to intersect with river bridges so bikers can cross to the other side.