x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Rollerblades inventor peddles new idea

Scott Olson, the inventor of Rollerblades, says his human-powered transport system could also be used at university and corporate campuses and even for large-scale urban transport.

Scott Olson, the inventor of Rollerblades, is proposing a human-powered transport system for the country's major tourist areas and, perhaps, Abu Dhabi's clean-technology hub Masdar City.

The futuristic proposal is basically a monorail with pods propelled by passengers pedalling or "rowing" the capsules.

Mr Olson's company, SkyRide Technology, also plans to include electric capsules that travel on rails using energy drawn from solar panels. The company has a presence at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi this week.

Mr Olson suggests his system could also be used at university and corporate campuses and even for large-scale urban transport.

"Hopefully this will change how people think about transportation and … get people off the ground and off of the roads," he said.

"People are always looking for things to do," said Adam Meyer, SkyRide's chief marketing officer."It could be looked at as a tourist attraction or an activity for people with the mentality of being active, healthy or fit," he said.

"Of course, for everyday use or for people not interested in manual effort, there will be alternatives."

The company has discussed the technology with officials at Masdar, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce, Ferrari World and several other organisations.

Paul Bierman-Lytle, the director of sustainability development for the contracting and consulting firm IMCC, based in Abu Dhabi, said he was considering SkyRide's human-powered system for several projects in which his company was involved. He is drawing up plans to potentially incorporate it at Al Forsan International Sports Resort, which will eventually include a shooting club, hotel and residential villas.

"This is such a unique concept, and would certainly draw a lot of attention from around the world," he said.

A similar human-powered system operates in New Zealand. Last September, Google invested US$1 million (Dh3.67m) in Shweeb, which built The Shweeb monorail ride at the country's Agroventures Park, to promote transit research and development.

SkyRide is just coming to market. It has so far drawn interest from special-needs centres, ski resorts and other tourism-related facilities. One small town in Minnesota is considering installing the monorail as a way for residents to pass over a busy intersection.

Each fibreglass pod rides on four 3cm diameter wheels along a steel track, which allows lane changes. The current model allows riders to reach up to 35kmh.