Why can’t getting around be as safe and comfortable as sitting in a car, and yet be something of a workout too? Scott Olson, the athletic Minnesota inventor of Rollerblades and the Rowbike, has come up with yet another way to do just that, and his company has a presence at the internationally attended World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi this week to promote the idea and help ween the UAE off fossil fuels with his SkyRide Technology. His SkyRower and SkyRide Technology allow you to safely propel yourself through the sky, at up to ten miles an hour, suspended under a monorail.
Minneapolis is considering using the invention to get pedestrians across a busy freeway. (A similar idea has been entertaining tourists at a New Zealand adventure park for several years. There, the Schweeb has Google funding). It is a concept that is just about to break through.
With the Zayed Energy Future Prize being awarded this week in Abu Dhabi, when better to pitch the idea, and who better to implement it than the low carbon capital of the world, Masdar City? Olson visited last week to propose the idea to Masdar, as well as to the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce, Ferrari World, and several other local organizations.
Olson envisions us humans invading the near earth airspace usually plied only by our two-legged friends, safely suspended from a monorail, and propelled along just by our own pedal power. We would lie back in a recumbent position for maximum comfort and minimum aerodynamic drag.
The idea has many useful applications. Getting people across rivers in place of bridges (hook a bicycle underneath?) and over freeways.
But I can also imagine these set up in multi-lane highway systems, clogged with rush hour traffic of rowers and bikers, following each other a few behind, and about ten feet apart. For many of us, ten miles an hour is a normal speed for how we get to work and back anyway – and then we have to somehow carve out another hour to drive to the gym to make up for all that sedentary way of life.
For those of us who are less athletically inclined, there would be an electric assist that keeps us all at the same lane speed. Without detailing specifics, SkyRide Technology’s chief marketing officer, Adam Meyer says, “of course for everyday use or for people not interested in manual effort, there will be alternatives.”
That would be me. As someone who has broken an ankle without insurance ($30,000), you’ll never get me on a bike. I like the fact that you won’t fall off a car. Back when I used to drive an hour to sit at a computer all day, then remain sitting placidly in the car for another hour home, I used to wish that at least for all the frequent slow driving regions, that I could pedal, and get a little exercise. This would work for me.
It’s an image that is futuristic, and at the same time, connects us to a more human powered past. This 17th century frozen river by Dutch painter Hendrick Avercamp is a place to pick up some fast food, but it is also a human powered thoroughfare speeding the journey home.
Of course, human-powered transport does not have to involve a naturally occurring slippery medium, only available in freezing conditions, such as ice. A monorail can work just as well to slide you along in any temperature.
Related low-carbon transport stories:
Time to Hook Your Car Onto the Road Train?
Israeli Parents Organize “Walking Bus” to Transport Schoolchildren
Abu Dhabi is Proving Ground for Futuristic Podcar People-Mover