Bicyclists Could Fly Through London

On the heels of London’s new bicycle “superhighways,” Mayor Boris Johnson is now seriously considering SkyCycle, a concept by British landscape architect Sam Martin that proposes a network of elevated cycled paths between London’s main tube stations. The SkyCycle would transform unused elevated rail lines and also include new infrastructure. According to The Daily Mail (UK), Martin, who is director of Exterior Architecture, is already developing feasibility studies for a few open-air tunnels, which would be sided in glass or plastic. If all goes well, the sky-highways could be open by 2015.

The proposal aims to make bicycling safer in the big city. In fact, Martin came up with the idea a few years ago when he stopped cycling because he found it too dangerous. His concerns are real: just this year, ten cyclists have died in London, writes The Times (UK), and some of the riders were very young.  

The sky-line tunnels would also ease congestion. Martin said that the number of bicycling journeys are expected to triple to 1.5 million by 2020. Indeed, they’ve already doubled since 2000. Car owners are perhaps tired of paying extra taxes and congestion fees to free up street space, and parking interests will certainly push to maintain the existing number of spots.  With streets already packed, where will these bicyclists ride? 

The system wouldn’t be free though. Bicycling commuters would use London’s ubiquitous Oyster card to gain access, paying about a pound to commute, which is still about one-third cheaper than a regular subway ride. The city would need to charge something for the privilege of using the network, giving the cost of construction can’t expected to be cheap. Martin also believes that a corporate sponsor could be roped in to help off-set some of the “tens of millions of pounds” of costs. But this idea isn’t nuts: Barclays financed the superhighways and bicycle share system, and Citibank is the primary sponsor of the bicycle share system in New York City.

Routes wouldn’t be used within neighborhoods but between them. Acting like true bicycle highways, the routes would connect far-flung London, and then on-ground superhighways and regular bike lanes would be used for neighborhood traffic. According to The Daily Mail, the first route could connect the Olympic site in east London, “linking Stratford with the City of London through Liverpool and Fenchurch Street stations.”

Still, the local transport group doesn’t seem convinced yet. Transport for London has explained it will work on making the 50 most dangerous road junctions safer in the coming months. And a local bicycling campaign also seems wary: “While we’re fascinated by Boris Johnson’s plan to put cycle routes along London’s working railways and would love to know how far his negotiations have got with Network Rail, we’d much rather hear the Mayor saying he’s prepared to build high-quality cycling facilities on the streets that Londoners use every day.”

Image credit: Exterior Architecture

In other news, check out Ground Up, a new print publication curated by graduated students in the landscape architecture department at University of California, Berkeley. The first issue, Landscapes of Uncertainty, explores contemporary landscape architecture and ecology and includes articles by Kristina Hill, Affiliate ASLA, Rebar, and others.

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