Coming soon: The Keystone XL ... bike path?
If they're going to build a pipeline, says one architectural firm, why not put something fun and green on top of it?
Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 05:23 PM
The proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline has caused investigations, it has inspired protests, and it has led to plenty of finger-pointing and angry accusations.
According to one architecture firm however, there is a way to make it all OK: Put a bike path on top of it.
Granted, SWA Group's much-talked-about proposal to install a massive bike path along the route of the pipeline seems to be as much about exploring ideas and grabbing headlines (it has certainly done the latter) as it is a serious effort to get this thing built. Here's how the company describes its thinking:
Infrastructure projects are rarely black-and-white issues. So many failed infrastructure projects across the U.S. have been too unilaterally (narrowly) focused on solving a singular problem (moving water, moving cars, efficiency), without remembering all of the other layers of development that are often working in concert with the development within the same space. People need space to ride bikes, walk, move; etc. This idea—“Landscape Infrastructure”—that the design and creation of landscape architectural and infrastructural projects can have multifaceted benefits while still solving infrastructural problems — is one of our key tenants in our firm.
So far, so good. If all infrastructure development was approached not from a narrow standpoint of one single objective, but rather a broader concept of how do we achieve more with less, then we'd be in a much better place than we are today. If someone's building light rail, for example, why not put a bike path next to it? If someone is repairing a rural road, why not use the opportunity to deliver much needed broadband to underserved communities? Systems thinking and a holistic approach to planning are both central tenets of a more sustainable economy — but they can only applied effectively if the projects being proposed are compatible with a sustainable economy in the first place.
It seems unlikely that a "mixed use" proposal for something as contentious as Keystone XL is likely to win support from either side of this thorny cultural divide. A recent Bloomberg piece on the SWA proposal would seem to confirm that assumption.
In a rare show of unity, a spokesperson for TransCanada warned that you can't usually build near a project like this, while an environmental lobbyist just sounded flabbergasted:
"This seems like it should be in The Onion or something,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, a lobbyist with the League of Conservation Voters, said in an e-mail. “Seriously, this can’t be for real.”
That said, a decent, well-paved bike path might be a useful asset if you were going to stage an environmental protest or two.
Especially if there was a farm-to-table winery nearby.
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