Inventor eyes "Schweeb" power for urban transport

Thu Mar 4, 2010 12:40am EST
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ROTURUA, New Zealand (Reuters Life!) - It's economical, ecological and good exercise: a new human-powered monorail is attracting the crowds in New Zealand, and may become a new mode of transport within cities.

Geoffery Barnett combined a laid-back, recumbent bicycle with monorail technology to create the "Schweeb," whose name is derived from the German word "schweben" which means "to float" or "suspend."

Barnett said the marriage of the old and the new makes sense: he said recumbent cycling is faster than traditional, upright cycling, while a monorail is the safest, and possibly the only, way to get around congested cities quickly.

The Schweeb is also environmentally friendly, he added.

"To me as a cyclist, it's just obvious, you should be able to ride over the top of the traffic, so I came up with the idea of a weather-proof capsule that is completely safe," said Barnett.

Barnett came up with the idea while living in Tokyo. He worked on the design for six years, and in 2007, opened a 200 meter (650 feet) track in Rotorua, in northern New Zealand.

"You jump on, you sit on the recumbent seat -- it's very comfortable, it's like sitting at home on your sofa," Barnett explained. "It's got seven gears to play with and it's a lot faster than any other bicycle."

Riders can get up to speeds of 60 kph (35 mph).

Apart from being a fun way to exercise and a tourist attraction, Barnett said the Schweeb can be used in parks, university campuses and for crossing over rivers.   Continued...