Fairground attraction? Transport system of the future? Shweeb is a monorail with hanging pedal-powered pods that can potentially reach 45km/h. And it’s not just an original idea with exciting artist’s impressions – it really does exist, as an adventure ride at the Agroventures park near Rotorua in New Zealand.
However, it was designed with urban transport in mind, and its potential as a public transit system has led Google to announce that they are providing US$1 million in funding for research and development “to test Shweeb’s technology for an urban setting”. Its makers are hoping to have an announcement on their website before Christmas saying where the first public transport system will be built.
Peter Cossey of Shweeb told BikeRadar: “We’re fully focussed on the Google pilot project and will look at expanding rapidly once we’ve completed that. The key thing is public acceptance so we realise we need to deliver a transit system such that the public can use it. Only then will they see how it works, understand the efficiency, safety and all other positive matters we refer to.”
Cossey envisages not just single rails from A to B, but a system with junctions where Shweebs can merge off and on lines at high speeds. The transit pods are geared to travel at 5-25km/h (rather than the higher speeds of the adventure ride) and are able to join up in “trains” at busy times. They have space for a backpack or briefcase, and a coat hanger. A child seat can be inserted and two-berth pods will be available.
Geoffrey Barnett, inventor of the system, said: “I first had the idea of a pedal powered urban transport system nine years ago. I’ve always loved riding a bike but I don’t like getting rained on and I don’t like punctures! I realised that if you mixed a recumbent bicycle with a monorail, you’d get an incredibly efficient machine that you could ride through a city at high speed in complete safety.”
Artist’s impression of a shweeb public transit system: Shweeb