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Google and the Shweeb sounds of success

by 28 Oct 2010Cartoons, Transport and climate action0 comments

Anti-motorway mayors elected

Transport Minister Joyce: Auckland and Wellington have sent us a clear message—we’d better build that $1.65‍ ‍billion holiday highway helluva quickly! cartoon Majorlook Productions

The first section would run to the Wilson Cement Works.

In time, it could run between Snells Beach and the Mahurangi College. And then form a coastal ‘walkway’ from Waiwera to Warkworth.

Largely unnoticed by New Zealanders, the Shweeb is set to become an international phenomenon. It is a human-powered monorail already successfully prototyped, as an amusement in Rotorua. Patrons pay $39 to pedal three laps of a 200-metre circuit. Because there are two parallel monorails, a large part of the attraction is racing a friend. Couples can also race couples, with the pods in tandem. Speeds of 45‍ ‍kilometres‍ ‍per‍ ‍hour can readily be reached—the record is more than twice that speed, held by a New Zealander.

Google thought it worthy of a share of its US$200‍ ‍billion worth:

Google, with its 10100 Project, gave itself something of a headache by inviting ‘ideas for changing the world by helping as many people as possible.’ The company received more than 154‍ ‍000, which tied up 3000 of its staff short-listing 16 ‘ideas’—really idea amalgams. Of those, the public selected five, including:
We are providing $1‍ ‍million to fund research and development to test Shweeb’s technology for an urban setting.

Project 10^100 icon

Public Choice: The public choose innovation in public transport, and four other ‘ideas’, from 16 shortlisted by Google from 154‍ ‍000. Icon Project 10100

Ideas grouped under the heading of Drive Innovation in Public Transport ranged from hydrogen-powered bicycles to airships. It is testimony to the Shweeb’s advanced state of development that it is one of just five ideas sharing the US$10‍ ‍million that was on offer. It is also the only civil engineering idea funded—three address education and one, transparency in government.

Geoffrey Barnett, raised in suburban Melbourne and a confirmed cyclist, conceived Shweeb as a personal urban transport system while working as an English teacher in Japan:

Watching the near immobile traffic of Tokyo, he soon dreamed up the idea of cycling over the top of it!

Geoffrey Barnett Shweebing

Shweebing Vision: From its inception, Geoffrey Barnett designed Shweeb as a serious urban transport solution. image Shweeb

The attention and funds from Google now mean that the first urban implementation of the Shweeb is assured, in the Northern Hemisphere:

While the prototype has been thoroughly tested in New Zealand; in order to gain creditability in the global marketplace we need to test a transit system in a high-density population destination. The Northern Hemisphere became the natural choice for us due to the sheer number of people that require transport and also the opportunity to achieve a higher global profile for the future growth of the company.

Be that as it may, it is a reflection of Aotearoa’s entrepreneurial cowardice that Shweeb is not already embraced as the national cycleway infrastructure. At the initial figure quoted for the Pūhoi–Wellsford motorway, $2.3‍ ‍billion, twin Shweeb monorailsource, Green Energy Reporter: It Costs Less Than Half the Price of an Urban Road, no longer online could be strung from Cape Rēinga to Ōamaru. Even at the marginally less ludicrous figure of $1.65‍ ‍billion bandied for the ‘Mangawhai Motorway’, Wellington could be comfortably reached.

The human physique evolved to walk. Human health depends on regular walking, or some suitable substitute. Sitting passively, on the other hand, is about the unhealthiest way to work or roam. The Shweeb consummately employs the long leg muscles and solid wheels on smooth, hard track to self-propel humans with stringent efficiency, in all weathers.

Weather, along with terrain and motorised road users, is the principal enemy of the cyclist. Shweeb sweeps aside such adversities, including by incorporating towing functionality on significant uphill sections. While the route between Snells Beach and Warkworth is level, a river crossing is called for and to clear yacht masts, so would need to be considerably elevated. Alternatively, a pivoting span involving a far less lofty crossing could be employed.

Two Shweebing

Sexy Shweeb: Len Brown look no further for a sexy ‘100 projects in 100 days’ project. image Shweeb

That Makaurau has lagged so far behind with public transport should now be seen as an opportunity to leapfrog legendarily expensive infrastructures, with a combination of fibre-optic cable and personal transit monorail. Move the work nearer the people, where possible, and allow the people to move themselves to their work. Build local offices where workers enjoy the stimulation of working with other productive people, not necessarily working for the same organisation. If a local office boasts workers known to be productive, employers can have greater confidence in employing a person to work from that site. The Shweeb system fights the triple epidemic of heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis, and minimises greenhouse gas emissions.

Len Brown need look no further for the sexiest conceivable ‘100 projects in 100 days’ project.


Etymology Shweeb is derived from the German schweben, meaning to float or suspend.

Project 10100 Project 10100 is named for googol, literally the number 10 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000, from which the US$200‍ ‍billion market capital company takes its name.