The idea seems so simple and effective.
You’re riding your bike through a city noted for its hilly terrain — Trondheim, Norway, let’s say.
Such a device, called a sykkelheis, or bicycle lift, has been operating since 1993 in Trondheim, which lies on the south shore of the Trondheimsfjord at the mouth of the Nidelva River.
Much of the residential part of Trondheim, Norway’s third-largest city, is on steep terraces above the harbor and old town. The city’s highest point is Storheia hill, 1,850 feet above sea level.
“For the most part we are a very healthy people, but sometimes it’s hard going when we bike up some of our steep hills,” says the city’s website. “That’s why Trondheim was the first city in the world with a lift specially designed for cyclists.”
Despite its hills, Trondheim boasts that it has the highest share of cycling compared to other Norwegian cities because it is a university city with 30,000 students, 90 percent of whom use bicycles as their main means of transportation, and because the city has invested millions of kroner on a network of bicycle paths and infrastructure, such as the sykkelheis.
The sykkelheis operates on essentially the same principal as San Francisco’s cable cars — a moving cable beneath the pavement.
Since it began service in 1993, the city says, the sykkelheis has pushed more than 220,000 cyclists up the very steep, 130-meter Brubakken hill in the historical part of the city to Kristiansten Fortress at the top.
Is a sykkelheis in the future, perhaps, of San Francisco? Seattle? Portland?