Home > Engineering Design, Tools & Ingenuity > The Shweeb: Not All Self-Propelled Systems Created Equal

The Shweeb: Not All Self-Propelled Systems Created Equal

I received a couple of different messages about The Shweeb this week, one even as a comment on this BLOG calling for a rallying of the troops. First thing to ask, obviously, is what in the world is The Shweeb?

The Shweeb is a human-powered monorail that comes with a lot of promises about the future and now a sizable chunk of Google money ($1.05m). According to the Shweeb website, they were chosen because Google “searched the globe” and selected them “as the organisation with the most forward looking transportation vision and with the relevant expertise to implement such an idea.

This 4-minute infomercial from Popular Science demonstrates the concept, potential fun and sells the idea for The Shweeb as a transportation solution.

Fun Idea Looking for an Application

Shweeb through the city

The Shweeb captures the efficiency of the bicycle, but removes the other primary advantage of the bicycle: the ability to go where ever you want.

A widespread Shweeb system would create a tiered system where motorists have access to their destinations without interruption and to the front door; kind of like we have now. Meanwhile, the shweebists are confined to a set-route removed from the street scene and all the spontaneous encounters that are possible when you share space with people.

This all said, I wouldn’t give up on the idea. The Shweeb has certain applications that could be useful. In terms of Traverse City applying for the Google grant to try out a Shweeb system, I first want to hear the Traverse City Monorail song. I also first want to trust that we have a plan to lessen the negative impact the 10’s of thousands of single occupant vehicles per day have on our community. If a robust Shweeb system comes with less public space devoted to cars, I could be persuaded.

Still, to be fair, I can see it serving a niche. Where could I see a Shweeb trial run in TC?

  1. Connecting the commons to downtown
  2. Connecting the two hospitals
  3. Connecting the transit center to downtown
  4. Connecting the opposite ends of NMC’s Campus
  5. Connecting the hotels on East Bay to the downtown (running over the water)

In the end, however, I’m leaning in agreement with a reader on Inhabitat’s Shweeb article:

“It took Google 1 million to fail at redesigning the perfect transportation, a bicycle. You can buy one at Walmart for $100.”

What am I missing? Are you a Shweebist?
EXTRA: Sent in by Peter from WNMC in a comment below, a monorail song for somewhere else: Monorail!
  1. Sharon Flesher
    September 29, 2010 at 9:22 am

    That actually looks kind of fun. Maybe it would get teenagers out of their cars. When I was watching the video, I was thinking that all the traffic the shweebists are riding over would soon disappear, since those drivers would want to take the shweebs instead of their cars, which would leave the streets for me on my bike.

  2. September 29, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Gary, this is a chicken and the egg issue on the song. A blog posting simply isn’t enough support to start construction on a rally song. I can tell you that it would be excellent. If we had commission support, and the biking community got behind it’s development, then we are ready to talk. Until then, it looks like TC is just not ready for such an outstanding idea.

    Here’s a popular monorail song…
    [audio src="http://www.simpsoncrazy.com/content/music/monorail.mp3" /]

  3. September 29, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    I think the point is that we need the motorist community to get behind the idea. The bike community, in which I don’t claim to represent, seems to be growing without the Shweeb. I like the idea of motorists switching to the Shweeb and leaving the streets to walking, biking and playing.

    Ask around though and find the paper work; it seems like a good Grand Vision project. Don’t give up because one blogger’s lukewarm response.

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