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What If The Keystone XL Pipeline Was A Bike Path?

This tongue-in-cheek proposal would turn the 5,000-mile pipeline into an opportunity for localized development.

Let’s pretend that it’s 2014, and the Keystone XL Pipeline has just been approved, despite protests from millions of Americans. According to a group of landscape architects at SWA Group, the time to start planning for that day is now. “The environment it will create isn’t beautiful, useful, ornecessarily safe. If we’re not thinking about how to make it better for people, that’s a problem,” says SWA principal Kinder Baumgardner. 

So as part of an internal exercise, the SWA Group is imagining how public amenities could be woven into the 5,000-mile stretch of crude oil pipeline.

On the surface, SWA’s proposal is incredibly cynical. A bike path next to an oil pipeline is the environmental equivalent of a bandaid on a mortal wound. 

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. As a design element, it’d be fairly inexpensive to build. The real point, explains Baumgardner, is to generate development by increasing local tourism.

“There are hundreds of small towns that won’t benefit from the Oil Sands once the Pipeline is built,” he says. “What we’re talking about is an opportunity to make it into an amenity managed at a local scale.”

A map showing the diversity of ecology and climate that exist in the areas through which the pipeline will travel.

This map shows the diversity of ecology and climates that exist in the areas through which the pipeline/trail will travel.

Read the full story here.