We need greenways & electric scooters NOW

An open letter from the Peacemaker Foundation

Update May 2020: Since the time of first sharing these ideas in early March 2020, more and more places have already started following some of these suggestions. We need to make sure we keep up the momentum and see these beneficial changes happen in more places.


At present we face the challenge of providing people with safe forms of transport in which they do not occupy enclosed spaces with others and can maintain a safe social distance. The hazards of public transport right now are well documented, but many are falsely assuming that car journeys are safe. A car is an even more enclosed space than a train or bus, so the only way it’s going to be safer is if you travel alone or with people you know for sure to be virus free and take precautions.

Hordes of people avoiding public transport by travelling in cars alone is a scenario we must avoid for obvious health and environmental reasons. The virus may just be Mother nature’s wake up call, reminding us of our biggest problem – global warming.  We absolutely need to take this fleeting window of a chance to do better.


1. While we have less traffic, widen and improve existing bike lanes and cycle-superhighways to enhance cycling safety and allow greater social distancing. Any cycle superhighways should have at least two lanes in either direction (slow and fast) with clear barriers to divide the two directions and further enhance safety. All efforts should be made to separate cyclists from vehicle traffic and pedestrians – even if it means elevating the cycle pathway over some or all roads.

2. Legalise electric scooters as a matter of urgency and other allow them to be used on the improved bike lanes and cycle-superhighways – henceforth ‘greenways’.

3. Rather than peppering a city with inadequate bike lanes, simply take a small number of roads and devote them entirely to green lightweight transport devices by banning cars: minimal to no infrastructure required, maximum safety and social distancing, maximum encouragement to get people out of cars and onto bikes and scooters, massively enhanced air quality for residents on those roads, maximum fun and completely reversible in future if need be. North-South and East-West routes converging in the city centre would be a perfect start to allow speedy and safe long distance travel! See a good example from Beijing HERE.


If local governments do this now there will be far less pushback than if they wait. This is what we should have done long, long before anyway, but we’ve been blinded by our obsession with cars for so long that it hasn’t happened in most places. Smoke gets in your eyes. Nevermind, we can do it now, we must do it now.


In Germany, Paris, New Zealand and elsewhere local governments have created pop-up cycle lanes using various removable materials. Later on these widened bike ways could be made permanent. 

In Birmingham, UK, pollution has risen with excessive car use in recent years. The local government created two high-quality cycle superhighways which have been criticised for hardly being used. As soon as we legalise electric scooters it’s obvious that they will become well-used and this will help to clear the air. The existing two cycle-superhighways form a disconnected South-to-North pathway – we now need an East-to-West path as well please.

In London various cycle-superhighways are now becoming victims of their own success and are far too busy to allow for safe social distancing. They’re also often quite unsafe given that they’re bi-direction without separation – so cyclists pass each other at high speeds. Identical paths parallel to or elevated above the existing ones should be created without delay. Then each cycle-superhighway can  become one way only – safer in every respect. If parallel, then we could simple allocate one of the traffic lanes for now, and later on make the change permanent.


We need to:

  1. Improve and widen cycleways/bike lanes – then give them a new name such as ‘greenways’ or ‘greenlanes’.
  2. Legalise electric scooters & some other non-polluting lightweight portable transport tools & allow the scooters on the ‘Greenways’.
  3. Devote just two or three long roads in each city to green transport gadgets to allow safer faster travel across the city.

Let’s do this now please. If we do, we may look back one day and see that in fact it was the virus that saved us.

To see our letter written in early March 2020 to the Future of transport team in the UK click HERE

Elevated Pod Cars for Birmingham


In Birmingham, UK, car traffic has increased in recent years leading to increased pollution and congestion which pose a threat to health and well-being.[1]

This is a proposal to use small lightweight vehicles known as pods or pod cars on elevated tracks to help resolve the city’s transport problems.

Hanging Pod Cars For Birmingham

Ultra Prt For Birmingham

Pod car proposals for Birmingham

Pod cars

Pod cars are a form of personal rapid transport (PRT). They are automated pods which move on a track. The passenger simply steps in a pod at a station and selects the destination station. The pod will then move continuously to the destination without stops at other stations along the way. This is possible because stations are set alongside the main guideway track. Despite low speeds (often between 10 and 25 mph), journey times are quick thanks to the continuous motion. The pods are generally small and may accommodate only several people at once.

Benefits of pod cars on an elevated track

• Light

Given the relatively light weight of the pod cars an elevated track can be made using less materials than used for an elevated track for trains, trams or other large vehicles. Therefore the design can be less conspicuous, more elegant and the track can even be designed to let light through.

• Safety

Once elevated or separated from other traffic, pod cars are a far safer alternative to any other form of transport that shares the same road space with other kinds of transport. Rail transport such as trams and trains, are known to be a very safe mode of transport, however; when they share the road space with other vehicles this can cause accidents and delays.[2] Furthermore, the tram tracks are a serious risk to cyclists and those on scooters.

• Good views

An elevated track brings good views along the way.

• Air Quality

Air quality usually improves with height [3] – so the air quality for passengers on an elevated track is likely to be far better than on the ground.

• Security

With regard to crime and security concerns such as terrorism, pod cars offer one of the very safest forms of public transport. Given the fixed routes on a track there is no threat of them being used as weapons (as with cars or trucks). The small size of the pods also means there is no potential for attacks among large groups of people on the journey. Safety is further increased by the fact that the pods do not stop along the way. Areas where the pods run (such as canals) are likely to experience enhanced safety owing to the increased visibility, especially if the pods are raised above the ground allowing passengers a good view of surroundings.

• Long-term utility

An elevated track is more future proof because we avoid future interference when ground-level infrastructure undergoes repair or change. Also whether or not innovations such as driverless cars become very popular, the elevated pod car network will retain its value as a way to reduce congestion on ground level – and the capacity of the network can be adapted to suit the city’s changing needs.


Transport on a well designed elevated track is less likely to be influenced by leaf fall, trespassers and so on.

Benefits of pod cars in general

Environmentally friendly

Pod cars are a sustainable and pollution free alternative mode of transport.

• Cheap

Pod cars are relatively cheap to build and offer higher rates of return than many other transport modes. The cost of constructing the pod car network is far lower than for the equivalent length of subway or elevated rail track.[4]


Once a destination is selected, the pods move with no driving necessary, so the passenger can relax and enjoy the view.

Even more Safety

The low but continuous speed enhances safety yet further.

• Efficiency

The continuous motion saves energy – starting and stopping is hugely wasteful in terms of energy. They are also more energy efficient than large vehicles or mass transport tools at times of low usage. This is because running a whole train, bus or tram with few people on is obviously inefficient and wasteful. Usually only those pod cars with passengers are in motion, while the other pods remain at stations ready for other passengers, however; empty pods can be directed to busy stations if need be.

• Tried & Tested

The ultra PRT pod car network in Heathrow airport has been running since 2011 and has proven itself to be efficient, reliable and highly popular.[5] The system was ‘‘voted by customers as their favourite airport passenger service’’.[6] Other systems are running elsewhere, such those in Masdar city, Suncheon, Korea and Morganstown, United States.[7]

• Simultaneous entry

A number of pods can wait for passengers at every station so that potentially several groups of people could get on at once. So wait times would likely be far less than for many bus, tram or train services. In the Heathrow pod car system the average weight time is around 10 seconds. [8]


The pods are far quieter than most trains or other large vehicles.

• Novelty

The novelty and convenience of the pod cars would help boost the fame of the city and bring in more visitors.

• Gradual construction in stages

The pod car network could be built in stages allowing for a trial period before a full scale network is constructed. Likewise, we could add more pods to the network if or when the demand rises.

• Compatibility

Given the relatively low cost of the network it can be built in addition to other transport solutions. So it need not, and should not, replace other recent worthwhile initiatives such as the cycle superhighways, the tram network and so on.[9]

Disadvantages of pod cars

• Large numbers of pods required

Because pod cars are small, many pods are required to provide a high-capacity service. This increases likelihood of mechanical failure or some other problem with a given pod on the network. However, the technology has already proven itself to be extremely reliable and if a pod car breaks down on the main track then there is a way to ‘‘push failed vehicles from behind to the nearest station.’’[10] Furthermore, given the small size and relatively low cost of each pod compared to a train or tram, each pod can be moved, taken away, serviced or even replaced with far greater ease than many larger transport tools.

Given the large number of pods required, the track will likely experience a high volume of pod traffic. So the pods will probably pass by people’s homes and offices with more regularity than trains or trams. However; the fact that the pods are relatively quieter, small and pollution free should help them to gain acceptance or favour.

• Ugly?

Some may find them visually unappealing especially if on an elevated track. Hopefully the lightweight construction and light permeability of the design will help increase acceptance. A strategically located track above a pedestrian path, canal tow path or bike lane, could even serve as a very useful rain shelter while allowing enough light in from the sides and a good view of the surroundings.

Recommendations for Birmingham – pod cars over canals & rivers

We propose putting a pod car network above the canals, and possibly the rivers, in Birmingham. This would bring yet more benefits in addition to those already mentioned.

Benefits of pod cars above canals

• Space & ownership

There is enough space so no infrastructure needs to be moved. Also none of the space is privately owned.

• Less negative impact

The canal boat traffic is far less than vehicle traffic, so any inconvenience caused by the elevated track or construction will influence far fewer people than if the track were constructed above a road.

• Direct routes

The canals offer extremely direct routes into the city centre from various locations – many not served by trains.

• Regeneration

The small size of the stations means they would be numerous and be built in various neglected parts of the city, helping regeneration.

• Serving new developments

The main areas of large scale building projects such as Broad Street, Eastside, Smithfields and Paradise Circus will all need improved public transport access. Luckily these areas are all in close proximity to canals so would be served by the pod cars. This will then reduce pressure on other the transport services.

Map of canals (2020 Google Maps Data)

Image taken from 2020 Google Maps Data & highlights added. A map showing some possible pod car routes above canals in blue and major building projects in yellow. The river Rea route (narrower) could be a future extension pending demand.

Map of canals (2020 Google Maps Data) (2)

Image taken from Google maps data (2020) & amended. Map showing a possible initial pod car network in blue. Extensions could be added in future, perhaps going over rivers or some roads like the A4540 to form a loop around the city centre.

• Improving canal-side safety

Thanks to the resurfacing of the canal towpaths, the canals are now used regularly by cyclists and pedestrians. However; this brings obvious safety issues when there is competition for space.[11] It’s likely that many of the pedestrians and some of the cyclists would use the pod car service thereby reducing the canal side congestion and improving safety.

A very helpful addition to the city, even without the pod cars, would be an elevated walkway for pedestrians running over the canal towpath. This would separate cyclists and pedestrians. The pod car stations would be easily accessed from this walkway using stairs and ramps or lifts (for disabled access).

• Enhanced security on the canals

There have been various reported incidents of robberies on the canals in Birmingham. The enhanced visibility the pods would bring, will increase personal safety for those walking or cycling along the canals as well as for those in canal boats. It may be that the canals outside the city centre even become pleasant places for a night stroll, presenting new business opportunities such as canal-side cafes and so on.

• Less disruption

The construction of the network above the canals would bring less disruption to traffic than if it were constructed above roads. In addition, air quality for construction workers will be far better than alongside busy roads.

• A major tourist attraction

The canals are a scenic attribute of Birmingham and an important tourist attraction. Riding along the canals in a pod car will likely become a popular activity for tourists and residents alike.

• Integration into existing infrastructure

Bridges over the canals can support the structure of the track and lead to pod car stations. This could potentially reduce construction time, costs and materials.

Disadvantages of pod cars above the canals

• A high track

The track would need to rise over the canal bridges such as road and rail crossings so would need to allow safe passage for all vehicles driven over the bridges. Either the entire track is made high enough or gentle rises can take it over the bridges. Where space allows, the track could also be diverted under the bridges although the height may actually add to the novelty and enhance views from the pods.

• Peace and tranquility of the canals

Some may view the pods as an ugly distraction from the peace and tranquility of the canals. But equally many may regard the pods as a welcome visual addition that adds life to otherwise dull areas.

Alternative or complementary transport solutions

1. Greenways over the canals

To help combat pollution, big cities around the world will need to cater to the increased popularity of small electric transport devices such as scooters and electric bikes, as well as bicycles. An alternative to having an elevated pod car track would be to have elevated ‘greenways’ – green gadget super-highways reserved only for small lightweight non-polluting transport devices such as bikes and scooters.[12] This could also be built over the river Rea, and perhaps along some roads, while the pod cars run above the canals.

Bike Lanes Over The Canals

A greenway over a canal

Birmingham’s population is rising, so it’s likely that in future we would benefit from a combination of both elevated pod car and greenways. The hanging pod cars network could be adapted so the space above is used as a greenway or walkway. This may require further bolstering of the structure to support the increased weight but is a clear advantage of this design and ensures yet further future-proofing (long-term utility).

Hanging Pod Cars & Bikescooter Lane For Birmingham

Dual purpose pod car track & greenway (bike & scooter path)

2. Turning roads into greenways

In addition to the pod cars and other ideas we strongly believe that a necessary solution for many cities around the World is to take a select few roads leading into the city centre and convert them into greenways. In 2019 the local Birmingham government wisely chose to build two cycle-superhighways instead of six bike lanes. Likewise, several greenways with complete segregation from vehicular traffic would be far safer and more worthwhile than a myriad of bike paths alongside roads. A greenway would be entirely reversible if need be, but if popular then more infrastructure could be added such as pedestrian bridges enhancing safety and allowing continuous flow for pedestrians and those on the greenway alike. See HERE for more information.

Above: A proposed greenway with pod car track as an optional later addition 

3. An elevated light rail system


DCC Doppelmayr Cable Car / CC BY-SA  (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

An elevated monorail, or tram system could also be built. For example, Birmingham airport’s people mover (see image) would be a good option for the city because elevated, but this would require heavier more costly infrastructure and the trains/trams would have to stop at every station along the way. Therefore we believe it makes more sense to use elevated pod cars while reopening unused railway lines or transforming them into tramways, greenways or a combination.


A conclusion

Whatever we choose to do, we need to segregate pedestrians, bikes and other vehicles wherever possible. We believe that pod car tracks over canals and possibly rivers is clearly a very good answer to Birmingham’s traffic and transport problems. Even if built over roads many of the benefits would be kept. By looking logically at the various aspects of this idea the potential benefits become clear. We have shown how this is a low cost, sustainable and safe transport option. Even the main design issue of how we can incorporate the bridges into the design are entirely resolvable. So the greatest hurdle to overcome will be people’s apprehension towards new ideas. In Birmingham, the traffic has now become so busy, with air quality so poor in certain areas, that we now need to overcome our apprehensions and look for solutions urgently.

If you also feel this is a valuable proposal, for Birmingham or any other city, then please do share with others. If you have any recommendations, comments or queries please get in touch and help get our transport on the right track!

[1] https://www.greaterbirminghamchambers.com/research-campaigning/hot-topics/transport-and-congestion/.

[2] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/623366/light-rail-tram-ending-march-2017.pdf

[3] http://www.wsp-pb.com/PageFilesn/80156/WSPPB%20City%20Air%20Quality%20at%20Height.pdf

[4] https://www.ultraglobalprt.com/how-it-works/costs/

[5] https://www.ultraglobalprt.com/wheres-it-used/

[6] http://www.futureairport.com/features/featuremy-pod-heathrows-capsular-travel-system-4377991/

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_rapid_transit

[8] http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20140910-hands-off-with-heathrows-pods

[9] https://www.business-live.co.uk/opinion-analysis/dont-think-birmingham-solving-traffic-10914789

[10] https://www.railway-technology.com/projects/personal-rapid-transit/

[11] https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/jul/27/on-roads-cyclists-are-vulnerable-but-on-towpaths-theyre-the-menace.

[12] https://peacemakerfoundation.com/category/world-health/urban-flow-plan/

To download this proposal in PDF form please click HERE

All images & writing by Luc@Peacemakerfoundation.com unless credited otherwise

”Hoverboards” (Self-Balancing Foot Scooters)

It’s about time we each take responsibility for saving our climate & stand on our own two wheels! The chart below was made in 2015, updated version soon to follow.
lean machines, hovertrax, Solowheel, Balance Boards, Balance Scooters, Foot Scooters, chic-smart, esway, iohawk, monorover R2, SmartraxS5,

Note: table is based on information online in 2015. Phunkeeduck details may be incorrect – received no response from the company to confirm. If you see any errors or have any useful suggestions please let me know.

Download this table
Lean Machines PDF
Lean Machines Word file

See this post in Mandarin Chinese (看中文版)

In case you plan to buy one and intuition isn’t telling you which one to go for then you can make a decision matrix using the table. A great technique if it’s done well. Click below to see an example.

Lean Machines Decision Matrix

The text below is really important if you’re going to learn to ride a self-balancing scooter. It’s based on my own experiences learning the Hovertrax.

Learning to Ride an Electric Self-balancing Scooter

Self-balancing electric foot scooters are fun and convenient but not as safe as you might think. It’s essential that you master the following steps before even considering riding beside a road, in a busy public place or other challenging environment.
When learning you will need a safe place with lots of space and a large open flat surface such as a running track, the center of a gymnasium, a tennis court or a playground.

Before going out with your scooter
1. Understand the functions
Read the manual and other information carefully and make sure you know how to turn it on, off, and so on.
2. Understand the concept
Before you hop on, be sure you understand the concept of how it works and can visualise how the angles of the feet correlate with speed and turning.
Tilt forward = go forwards.
Tilt back = go backwards.
Right tilt forwards, left back = turn left
Left tilt forwards, right back = turn right
You can practice angling and turning your hands or sit on a chair or edge of a bed putting your feet on the device while it’s switched off pretending you’re riding.

In a safe practice location
3. Getting on
Put your dominant foot level on the scooter and bring the other foot up quickly.
4. Getting off
Step off behind the scooter keeping one foot level on the platform to prevent the scooter rolling away.
5. Stopping
Practice regular stopping as well as abrupt stopping at high speeds. For high speed stopping as you tilt your feet back crouch down with hands level to the ground until you reach a stop. You should aim to be able to come to a complete stop in the shortest possible distance (about 1 to 1.5 m for the Hovertrax at near top speed).
6. Turning
Practice turning on the spot (one foot tilting back, the other tilting forward) and turning at speed (one foot level, the other tilting forward). You could use plant pots or other such objects to form a practice slalom course.
7. Reversing
Practice going backwards.
8. Reversing & turning
Practice going backwards and turning.
9. Stepping off while moving
Many foot scooters may get stuck on rough terrain. To prepare for this learn to step off while going at speed. Be extra careful because if when you step off your foot pushes down on one side of the platform the scooter will move in the corresponding direction. It could zoom out from under your feet or even back under your feet.
Go slowly in a straight line and then while moving take a quick and little step putting one foot in front of the machine resting on your toes with the heel up. Then follow with a larger step with your other foot flat on the ground. The first foot should stabilize you and stop the machine from rolling on as it goes into the sole of your shoe.
step off foot scooter 210. Speed & stability
Only once you’re ready and have fully mastered the other steps should you very carefully and very gradually have a go at seeing how fast you can go safely maintaining stability. Take multiple goes, each time increasing your speed a little more. Once the speed control tilts you back, or the device strains or wobbles then slow down right away. You must never try to increase the speed beyond this point otherwise the device may not have enough power to keep up with your leaning and you could fall.
At speed you must make absolutely sure that you keep both feet as level as possible on the platforms to keep a straight line.


  1. Understand the concepts and the machine.
  2. Try doing the basic things until they become natural.
  3. Only then progress toward the more advanced things.

Download the above text as a PDF:
Learning to ride an electric self-balancing scooter

See here for a comparison table of self-balancing electric Wheels like the Solowheel

Imagine if we saved the environment, peoples health and lives by simply making a selected few streets in large cities car-free giving them over to bikes and lightweight portable transport

Great video review of Solowheel, Hovertrax, Phunkeeduck & the zBoard Pro

Engine Idling Posters

Turn off your engine for cleaner air poster

Clean air isn't just a pipe dream 'The exhausted man' Petra Rohr-Rouendaal

Click HERE to see these posters in Mandarin Chinese

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Poster competition 環保海報設計大賽

‘Let’s Clear the Air’ Poster Competition for Schools
We are hosting a ‘Let’s Clear the Air’ Poster Competition’. The two themes are: ‘Stop Engine Idling’ and/or ‘Use green/public transport.’ Pictures must relate to one or both of these themes. The language can be either English or Chinese, both colour and black and white posters are OK, and all sizes are acceptable. There is no limit to how many posters one school or student can submit.
The competition has three age groups:
1:Elementary school
2:Junior High School
3:Senior High school
The artists of the top three posters in each age category will be awarded certificates, and their posters will be displayed on the internet. The top poster in each age category will be reproduced in the form of stickers or cards. These stickers or cards will be given to people in challenging financial situations (such as homeless people) for them to sell. So if your class or school participates you will help the world, children’s health, your school’s reputation, as well as those in need of an income.
How to apply
1: Scan in the pictures or photograph (Photos must be very clear)
2: Send the digital file by email to: Luc@peacemakerfoundation.com.
The file must be received before April 22, 2015 (Earth Day).

•Remember to include the school’s name.

•Each digital file should include only one picture. (There’s no limit to how many digital files or emails you can send)

(Extra note: 25 MB max per email. If the digital files are over 25 MB then you need to send more than one email or use online storage such as Google Drive or Dropbox and send a link. We will reply to your emails to confirm they were received.)  

•Please provide each student’s name, and age category (elementary, junior or senior) within each file name.

Winners will be announced on May 1, 2015 (Labour Day), on the website:
Peacemakerfoundation.com (see ‘World Health’ + ‘Poster Competition’). After the results have been announced the certificates will be sent to schools (can be sent digitally via email or by post).
For some example posters and information about engine idling please see HERE. Please forward this text to other teachers, especially those who teach art, English, or subjects relating to health and the environment.
Thank you and best wishes!
The Peacemaker Foundation
Campaigns & Projects to Promote Health & Wellbeing
Click here to download above text as PDF: ‘Let’s Clear the Air’ Poster Competition for Schools 2015

Click here for ideas & advice on making the posters in class

Click here to see children’s stop idling posters + video

本基金會將舉辦環保海報設計大賽。 海報主題為「停車熄火」或/與「環
貼紙,並發給一些需要收入的人(如:街友)來進行販賣。 所以參與可以同時
1、把圖片掃描或拍照(請拍攝清晰照片) 。


(Email 附件的檔案不能超過 25 MB. 檔案的大小超過的話請寄另外一個 email 或用雲存儲, 像Google Drive 或 Dropbox.  我們會回复來確認收到了您的 email.)  


Peacemakerfoundation.com(’World Health’+’Poster Competition’)。
更多圖片與資訊請看這裡。 請協助將本訊息轉發
謝謝! 祝 健康、平安! Thank you and best wishes!

下載PDF:環保海報設計大賽 (‘Let’s clear the air’ Poster competition)



Stop Engine Idling Pictures + English Text ‘停車熄火’圖像+英文字

Click here for Chinese posters 中文的海報按這裡

Let's clear the air.  Please don't idle.  Cartoon poster.

Let’s clear the air. Please don’t idle.

Let's clear the air English Text 5 copy

Let's clear the air

Let's clear the air 4 Let's clear the air 3

Copyright free Stop Idling picture

Air Quality Campaign Poster (for you to fill in, print, and distribute).

Stop engine idling poster in Taipei

Stop Idling Start Saving

Stop Idling Start Saving UK bus 1

‘Stop Idling Start Saving’ poster for the UK

Stop Idling Start Saving UK 4  Bus

‘Oi Driver! No!’ ‘Stop Idling Start Saving’ poster for the UK and London using Harry Enfield character.

'Stop Idling Start Saving' poster for London

‘Oi London! No!’ ‘Stop Idling Start Saving’ poster for London using Harry Enfield character.

Turn off your engines sticker or poster 2

Turn off your engines sticker or poster

cuando para, apague el motor , cuide el ambiente, su salud y su dinero, stop idling start saving

Spanish: cuando para, apague el motor , cuide el ambiente, su salud y su dinero

Clean air isn't just a pipe dream 'The exhausted man' Petra Rohr-Rouendaal