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American Cities Consider Bicycle Elevators

bicycle elevatorThe city of Trondheim, Norway is well known among cyclists for the bicycle elevator it installed in 1993 to help riders go up a steep hill. It safely transported over 200,000 cyclists up a 130-meter hill with no accidents until it was dismantled in 2012 and replaced the following year with CycloCable, an industrialized version designed to comply with new safety standards.

CycloCable works in a way similar to a ski lift. Most of the parts are located below the street to provide increased safety and a seamless integration into the roadway. A rider presses a green button at a “start station” and waits for the first footplate to arrive. The cyclist stands on the bicycle, places the right foot on the footplate, and leans onto it. The launcher slowly accelerates to 1.5 meters per second. The lift’s maximum speed is 2 meters per second. It can transport up to 300 cyclists per hour and can go up an 18-percent grade extending as far as 500 meters.

The CycloCable costs about as much to install as a bicycle lane. A survey of Trondheim bike lift users conducted in 2007 found that 41 percent said they were riding their bicycles more because of the original lift.

The CycloCable is currently only being used in Trondheim. POMA Group, the French company that developed the bike elevator, wants to test it for another season before introducing it elsewhere. Cities in Europe, Asia, and North America have expressed interest in using the lifts on their hilly roads.

San Francisco officials are interested in the idea of installing CycleCable. The city will have to conduct pilot demos, secure funding, analyze the engineering design, and follow legislative procedures before the bike elevator can be introduced.

Pittsburgh is also considering a CycleCable lift. A city non-profit proposed installing a bike elevator similar to the one in Norway several years ago, but it was blocked due to concerns about liability. Some city officials believe those obstacles could be overcome.

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