The Bike Lift: A Biker's Dream for Riding Uphill
By: Bryan R
As an avid recreational and commuter cyclist, I'm always on the lookout for novel and innovative bike-related news and technology. In Seattle, one of the banes of cyclists' lives are the dozens of hills peppering the city (it's almost humorous to reflect on how many of the neighborhoods are named after hills). The bike racks on Metro buses help, but during rush hour it's not uncommon for these racks to be completely full on the popular routes and if it's late at night or it happens to be the weekend, the wait time between buses can be taxing. And certain hills are so steep, it's fair to say that it likely discourages many of us from using our bikes even under the best of circumstances.
This problem isn't unique to the Seattle area. Hilly cities all over the world face the same challenge and for bikers, the only solution are bigger quads. But there might be an alternative! Imagine a simple "lift" spiritually akin to the common ski lift, but for bikes. With only a small stretch of the imagination, bicycle enthusiast Jarle Wanvik of Trondheim, Norway invented such a system and dubbed it the Trampe.
The bike lift design is pretty simple: a belt runs under the ground and has several small footplates that poke out from under a metal guard. To use the lift, a biker waits at the loading area where a specially designed "soft start mechanism" helps the user catch one of the moving plates. A trip up the hill is smooth, safe (no accidents in over 12 years of operation) and runs at speeds between three and four miles per hour. To save on power, the Trampe only runs when a user swipes their ticket. In Trondheim, a yearly ticket runs about twenty dollars and the entire system required about $200,000 to construct.
The advantages to the bike lift are numerous; first, and most importantly, it would allow a greater number of people to make biking part of their daily routine. And although biking can be great exercise, most commuters or persons running errands probably aren't looking for a sweat-inducing, calorie-burning trip. They simply want to get from point A to point B as painlessly as possible. Installing bike lifts on a few key hills could dramatically improve the number of bike trips taken per day. Another benefit would be an improved environment in terms of traffic, noise, smog creating agents and, of course, less CO2 production.
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