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Monday Watercooler


In tonight’s video, Rachel Maddow responds to a request by the Koch Brothers to read by script their lawyer that disavowed her coverage of attempts to force drug testing on social services recipients.

WIRED reports on an imaginary but intriguing idea for cyclists in London:

Cars, buses, and rogue pedestrians are all conspiring against cyclists in congested cities, forever running them down, scaring them silly or simply getting in the way. It’s something designer Norman Foster — an avid rider — hopes to alleviate with a dedicated biking highway built above London’s rail lines.

The purely hypothetical but nevertheless amazing SkyCycle would stretch 137 miles in and around the city, accommodating as many as 12,000 riders per hour on a cycling superhighway 50 feet wide. The dream calls for 200 on- and off-ramps which, according to Foster + Partners’ estimates, means nearly 6 million people will live or work within 10 minutes of an entrance. Without all those cars to weave around and lights to stop for, travel times to and from work would be reduced by up to 29 minutes.

‘SkyCycle is a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city,’ says Foster. ‘By using the corridors above the suburban railways, we could create a world-class network of safe, car-free cycle routes that are ideally located for commuters.’

Putting aside the cost and difficulty of building a 137-mile highway above a working railroad — a point the folks at Foster + Partners sidestepped entirely — we will note that such a highway would be bike-friendly. The railway lines were built for steam trains, so the grades are minimal; the lines follow the natural contours of the land; and — most importantly — the space above them is underutilized, particularly in industrial areas. And according to the proposal, the elevated bike paths are also cheaper to build compared to traditional roads and tunnels. Not that there’s any space for new asphalt to begin with.

As a cyclist, I’d love to imagine cities that prioritized our experience in this way. I take to Austin, Texas’ many wonderful greenbelts and bike trails whenever I can but I also lament the many projects that never materialized. A mere 1/4 of downtown is traversed by a lovely bikeway that was intended to cross a significant portion of the city. Until, by all accounts, political sell-outs and boondoggles diverted the money to other, more fossil-fuel friendly roadway projects.

What’s on your mind tonight? Got questions? The Watercooler is an open conversation.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and