There’s a new way to cross the San Diego Bay: bike.
“Why not?” asks Judah Schiller, a Northern California designer who developed a water bike that glides on pontoons and has a pedal-powered propeller. It’s already crossed San Francisco Bay and the Hudson River. It’s not the first of its kind, but its creators, while focused on recreational users, didn’t forget commuters.
Schiller was inspired by a dilemma familiar to San Diego cyclists — a shortage of bike lanes across the Bay Bridge. In San Diego, a study under way to address the same issue also involves a unique way to cross the water: a full-length tube for biking and walking that would stretch beneath the San Diego-Coronado Bridge.
Likewise, Schiller’s envisioned commuter bike lane runs beneath the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, but cyclists aren’t suspended in an enclosed tube nearly 200 feet above the water; they’re pedaling on its surface below.
Schiller is optimistic that the bike is a viable option for San Diego’s busy port, with its ferries, ships, and other water-craft.
“Are there rules prohibiting kayakers or stand-up paddleboarding riders from doing this ride? If not, then there is no reason why” this human-powered water bike can’t, says Schiller. It has no engine and is shorter in length than many kayaks, he says.
In 2010, due to rapid growth of stand-up paddleboarding on both coasts, the U.S. Coast Guard classified the stand-up paddleboard as a vessel. That means they must comply with federal navigation rules and carriage requirements when used beyond a swimming, surfing, or bathing area. The X1 water bike falls into the same category.
According to San Diego Harbor Police Sgt. Todd Rakos, the bike “would be considered like any other vessel.” Riders must “give way to big ships,” wear life jackets, and follow basic boating rules. But the route is wide open.
“There is nowhere they’re restricted,” Rakos says.
Schiller’s X1 design has 11-foot inflatable pontoons, a 45-pound frame, can travel up to ten miles per hour, and collapses to fit in a car trunk. The $6495 bike reportedly goes on sale tomorrow, August 8.
The X1 is a refinement, not an invention.
The first ever water-faring bike is credited to Ambrose Weeres, a Minnesota man who invented the pontoon boat in 1951, using tubes and oil barrels. Weeres later built a water bicycle with a paddlewheel operated by foot pedals and a chain and sprocket.