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Building the Keystone XL…Bike Path?


Have you ever dreamed of biking from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico but been frustrated by the lack of dedicated bike lanes for the cross-country trip? Neither have we, but an architectural design firm has a $400 million plan to meet this desire you never knew you had, while boosting the appeal of a controversial energy infrastructure project. The idea, as Bloomberg reports, is to build a bike path alongside the proposed Keystone XL pipeline:

The creative director for the SWA Group, an Houston-based architectural firm that designed Google Inc.’s corporate campus, says building the lane along Keystone’s path through the country’s mid-section could turn what is now a source of rancor into a tourist attraction.

The firm sent a letter Oct. 17 pitching the plan to the State Department and TransCanada Corp., the pipeline’s sponsor. Its illustrations show scenes of smiling bicyclists riding over buried pipe and by a farmer’s market, Native American teepees, cows, sunflower fields—and a protester in a tree.

So far, the design firm is the only one excited about the plan. For greens, the bike path would be seen as capitulating to the extraction of Alberta’s tar sands oil. A spokesman for TransCanada, the company that would build the pipeline if President Obama approves it, is skeptical of the plan’s logistics: “To make sure we can maintain or access the pipeline, permanent structures couldn’t be built in the easement…We do not own the land that the pipeline easement is for.”

But there could be a knock-on benefit of having a steady stream of cyclists traveling Keystone’s route that greens and TransCanada are ignoring: volunteer leak detectors.

Mount up, cyclists!

[Bike path image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Fat_Man

    Sounds like a great idea to me. In Ohio, we have a program that converts abandoned railroad tracks into bicycle paths. The paths have become very popular.

    Of course the idea will upset “environmentalists” as a sacrilege, but nothing makes them happy anyway. They are a bunch of crazed religious fanatics who should be dismissed not debated.

    • Reticulator

      Trails along abandoned railroad tracks are usually the most boring places to ride. I could just as well ride a trainer at home. I do ride these trails occasionally, but what I want to see is along the roads. That’s where life takes place.

      Here is some of what I’ve written elsewhere on this topic:

      Multi-use trails in Holmes County

  • Reticulator

    I don’t usually favor special bicycle trails for traveling. The places I want to go to are along roads.

    • rheddles

      And driving a car, those are the places I don’t want to see a bike. Seen too many friends hurt and killed on bikes by cars. Best to keep them separated. I think this is a great idea and should be supported at the national and local level so that people can choose their vehicle and operate it in safety. But we’ll probably get driverless cars first.

      • Reticulator

        I don’t want to see cars on the road, either, but I don’t always get what I want. We can’t afford to build a complete duplicate of every road for bicycles, which is what we need if you’re going to keep bicycles and cars separate.

  • Mark Michael

    Got a good laugh when I read this post. Thanks for finding it. Boy, those proposers are a cheeky lot. Not to get sucked into a practical discussion of such an unlikely-to-be-built bikeway, but what the heck. There are some awfully empty, open stretches thru those states. You don’t grasp it until you’re there and seeing it firsthand. The cost to build it I suspect is quite substantial. You’d have to add in amenities reasonably often for those less-than truly outback type bikers, or you’d have some emergencies to handle.

    Those way stops would require access to “civilization” to keep them supplied with the goodies of those weekend urbanites pretending to be rough-and-ready bikers. Lots of new roads built to get those amenities out there.

  • Scott Morgan

    Just wanted to point out that the pipeline would be built through easements, not outright purchase. I seriously doubt the average farmer or rancher would be very excited to have a bunch of bikers riding merrily through their property. Eminent domain may be used for the pipeline easements but adding a happy little bike path would add a level of excitement that I suspect everyone will want to avoid.

    • rheddles

      You probably don’t have sidewalks in front of your house, either. I know the one on the easement in front of my house causes more excitement than I can handle.

      There is going to be some sort of road for pipeline maintenance in any case. Why not make it bikeable?

  • Reticulator

    BTW, since I seem to be the only road bicycler commenting here, I should point out that bicycle travel is for conservatives and tea partiers, while SUVs are for leftists. There is a lot of confusion about this all around, but I do my best to set people straight. Bicycles are for those who want to live free and are willing to deal with risks. Armored SUVs are for those who are willing to trade liberty for security, even if that means sucking the life out of life.

    • Kavanna

      You know, the most liberal towns in New England, where I live, also have the most SUVs, with a couple exceptions (Cambridge, say). OTOH, what I call “Deep North” (Maine, NH, northern Vermont, western Mass) is crawling with those appalling giant pickups used as station wagons.

  • Bill_Woods

    In general, bikes should be on roads, like other vehicles.

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