SkyCycleCycling Highways - London's transport utopia
London’s traffic is a nightmare, especially for cyclers. But what if we create a network of wide, elevated cycling paths above the existing railway corridors and set up more than 220 kilometres of safe, car-free cycle roads? Read More
London’s traffic is a nightmare – not just for drivers, but also for cyclists and pedestrians who are faced with the constant threat of being run down. After all, what operator of a motorised vehicle is willing to stop properly when an illusive, tiny stretch of open road comes in view?
And the public transport system can get on your last nerve: the buses are almost never on time. Their schedules are more like rough approximations, a fact any commuter who isn’t near an every-5-minutes bus line is all too familiar with. Depending on the weather, the Tube is often overloaded or on strike. And let’s not even getting started about commuter trains. To sum up: a true traffic disaster for a city of 7 million. And studies predict that population density in the English capital will continue to rise.
It therefore comes as no surprise that the British government has repeatedly promised to invest more in public transport. But a promising vision of what an efficient transit system would look like has been conspicuously absent. Until now. A controversial idea has been making the rounds for a few months and opinions differ widely: For some it is the cleverest project of all time, while others cannot condemn it soundly enough.
We are talking about SkyCycle. The project description promises “a new approach to transform cycling in the capital”. The idea is a network of wide, elevated cycling paths above the existing railway corridors. More than 220 kilometres of safe, car-free cycle routes that could be accessed at over 200 entrance points. According to the official project presentation, almost six million people live in the area covered by the concept, and half of them live and work within 10 minutes of an entrance. Each route could accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour, saving commuters up to 29 minutes travel time per journey.
The Exterior Architecture, Foster+Partner and Space Syntax architecture firms are the brains behind the project. One Foster+Partner founder, Lord Norman Foster, is no stranger to ambitious construction projects. He was involved in building “The Gerkin”, the famous skyscraper that has graced London’s skyline since 2004, and the glass dome on the German Reichstag. Although Foster is nearing 80, he is still an enthusiastic cyclist. So the SkyCycle project is close to his heart: “Cycling is one of my great passions – particularly with a group of friends”, he notes on the Foster+Partner homepage.
“I believe that cities where you can walk or cycle, rather than drive, are more congenial places in which to live. To improve the quality of life for all in London and to encourage a new generation of cyclists, we have to make it safe. However, the greatest barrier to segregating cars and cyclists is the physical constraint of London’s streets, where space is already at a premium. SkyCycle is a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city. By using the corridors above the suburban railways, we could create a world-class network of safe, car free cycle routes that are ideally located for commuters.”
All the huge project is lacking is the necessary political backing. If the British government decides to implement the ambitious plans, Foster will probably not live to see its complete. Construction projects of this magnitude generally take around 15-20 years.