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Keystone XL right-of-way could double as a giant bike trail

Multi-use infrastructure

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Houston landscape architecture firm SWA has proposed the right-of-way required to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline also be utilized for a bike trail, according to NPR:

As a North American oil boom has taken off in the U.S. and Canada, so has the need to move that oil to refineries, many of which are in Texas. And the cheapest, most efficient way to do so is pipelines. But as those pipelines proliferate, so do issues over safety, like the spill that took over a neighborhood in Arkansas earlier this year. There are also conflicts over property rights, including several landowners in Texas who have fought companies who want to route private pipelines through their land.

Those pipelines can cut a large swath through property, with an easement 50-feet wide. As you can see in the photo to the right of the Keystone XL pipeline under construction in Northeast Texas, it’s like building a road. And once the pipeline is in the ground, there’s not very much you can do with it. You can’t build any permanent structures on it, for instance.

One landscape architectural firm in Houston has an unorthodox idea: What if you took that massive pipeline right-of-way, going all the way from the Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast, and co-opted it for use as a bike lane?

It’s an admittedly “tongue-in-cheek proposal,” the firm SWA Group admits in its presentation, but it does get you thinking.

The idea – released earlier this Spring and reported on this week in Bloomberg — would make the Keystone XL a giant bike path. “We thought that if they are going to develop 5000 miles of infrastructure, we might get 5000 miles of bike paths out of the project,” the firm writes in its proposal. While heavy oil flows under the surface, carbon-free wheels could spin above ground. “They imagine families taking summer trips along the path, stopping at oft-overlooked cultural and natural heritage sites and spending much-needed tourist dollars along the way,” Fast Company Design wrote of the proposal earlier this year.

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