“Bike-Washing” the Keystone Pipeline [Updated]

An architectural firm's rendering for a bike path along the Keystone Pipeline. With sunflowers! Image: SWA Group

Houston-based architecture firm SWA Group has heads spinning today: Is their proposal to build a bikeway next to the Keystone Pipeline pure satire or a serious attempt to “bike-wash” the most reviled fossil fuel distribution project of our day?

SWA developed this idyllic rendering and sent it to the State Department and TransCanada, calling for a bike path alongside the proposed 1,300-mile Keystone Pipeline. The firm acknowledged that the drawing was tongue-in-cheek but insisted to Bloomberg that the proposal was serious. Apparently, SWA thinks the bikeway would defuse opposition to the pipeline and attract tourists.

That’s too bad, because as satire, it’s pretty sharp. A version of this happens all the time in cities: Proponents of an expensive boondoggle road project that will do nothing but encourage long, life-sapping commutes slap a bicycle path on the plans and call it a “multi-modal” corridor to placate opposition.

Environmentalists still aren’t sure the Keystone bikeway isn’t a joke. “Seriously, this can’t be for real,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld of the League of Conservation Voters.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Jane Kleeb, of Bold Nebraska, a pipeline opposition group.

A spokesman for TransCanada rejected the proposal, saying the corporation doesn’t own the land where the pipeline is planned and that any structures would block access to the pipeline. Meanwhile, Salon reports the bike lane proposal would cost a cool $400 million.

Update: Looks like this proposal is more satirical than SWA has been letting on to the press, since they originally put it out on April Fool’s Day. Well played. (Hat tip: Richard Masoner.)