(All images by Davide Bonanni, reproduced with permission)

Abandoned railways have been adapted for all manner of purposes, from wildlife refuges and urban parks (see New York’s High Line and Paris’ Promenade Plantée) to bike paths and rural hiking trails.  But their tracks are often torn-up to make them more pedestrian-friendly, generally dealing a hammer blow to future regeneration prospects.

The “O”, from Italian designer Davide Bonanni, is an innovative four wheel vehicle designed to fit on the railway track itself, allowing riders to explore abandoned railways while leaving their tracks in place for potential reuse.

In fact, the “O” offers a middle ground between roads and railways, and can be used on both. Intended to be rented – much like bike rentals – for a certain time period, customers can explore hundreds of miles of abandoned railway tracks that still survive in Italy (and beyond).

With a name that derives from its shape, the pedal-powered vehicle offers an environmentally friendly means of reusing old lines for recreational purposes while ensuring that critical infrastructure – that is not easily replaced once lost – remains intact.

And with ongoing efforts worldwide to resurrect rail transport networks, perhaps the “O” will soon be heading to an abandoned railway near you.

Keep reading – explore abandoned trolleys, streetcars and tramways, or venture underground into these ghost stations and abandoned subways.