Shweeb is an innovative form of alternative transportation that places people in plastic tubes so that they can cycle to their destination whilst hung upside down from a rail. It may sound crazy, uncomfortable and tiring, but Google believes that it could transform the way we get around cities — as such, they have invested $1.05 million into the scheme.
As the Shweeb system is ‘user-powered’ it immediately gets sustainability points, but the system has also been praised for its speed. A combination between traveling in tubes à la Futurama and “Sky Cycling,” Shweeb’s bike-powered monorail currently has a 200m cycle track in Rotorua, New Zealand, where is it billed as an “adrenalin-fueled” adventure. There, users are suspended from the track in transparent pods and can ‘cycle’ around the landscape at speeds of up to 45km/h.
Shweeb cycles are equipped with seven gears and, according to the operators, the reclining position is necessary for both comfort and reducing drag. The system has been a big hit with tourists, and Google reckons it could find equal satisfaction from the commuting population of some of the world’s cities.
Google’s interest came about thanks to their Project 10100, an initiative that seeks to find solutions that make the world a better place. The competition attracts a lot of entries — this year they received over 150,000 applicants from 170 countries. Shweeb was named one of the top five as voted on by the public, claiming top honors in the “Drive innovation in public transport” category.
The idea was conceived by Melbourne cyclist Geoff Barnett while he was living in Tokyo. After six years researching his dream, he set up a test bed in Rotura and launched the system in 2007. Since then, more than 30,000 people have ridden the Shweeb system, and the current speed record is 55 seconds for a 600m ride.
Shweeb managing director Peter Cossey said the company would spend the $1.05 million on research and development to build a showcase transit system in the northern hemisphere: “The northern hemisphere became the natural choicefor us due to the sheer number of people that require transport and also the opportunity to achieve a higher global profile for the future growth of the company,” Mr Cossey said.
With that in mind, is it possible that we’ll see the likes of the Shweeb in San Francisco, London or Tokyo soon?