The humble bike lane is about to get elevated — literally. British architects and transportation planners want to erect a superhighway just for bikes right over London. Dubbed SkyCycle, the idea is being presented as a “cycling utopia.”
If any city is primed for a bicycle revolution, it’s London. The population is expected to keep exploding and citizens will likely continue living longer, contributing to strains on public transportation. Enter bicycle enthusiasts with a big vision. Hat tip to Inhabitat’s Lucy Wang.
The elevated SkyCycle plan emerged from the architectural firms Foster + Partners and Exterior Architecture, and the urban planning consulting group Space Syntax. They call for more than 136 miles (220 kilometers) of car-free cycling routes that would follow suburban railway lines around London originally built for steam trains. This new highway could be accessed at more than 200 spots, handle 12,000 cyclists an hour and slice nearly half an hour off regular commute times.
London’s railway lines were built to follow contours that avoid steep gradients and naturally reduce energy output, the group explained in their proposal. Londoners need a safer way for bicyclists to get around the city, too. Cycling deaths have risen over the past several years, including a seriously bad stretch last November.
I cheer when urban planners design spaces just for bikes instead of cramming them between car lanes and parking spaces. While the SkyCycle rendering seems somewhat dizzying and the structure has almost a Robert Moses feel, I like that it would follow existing routes. In echoes of the Big Dig, the bike decks could be constructed while the trains run.
“The dream is that you could wake up in Paris and cycle to the Gare du Nord,” Exterior Architecture’s Sam Martin told The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright. “Then get the train to Stratford, and cycle straight into central London in minutes, without worrying about trucks and buses.” For now the whole thing is still in the proposal stage, though. More studies need to be done and developers need to sign on.
The SkyCycle reminded me of Denmark’s superhighway for bicycles that opened in April 2012 and features contiguous dedicated routes into Copenhagen from surrounding cities.
One Danish woman told the New York Times about going to the hospital with her husband by cargo bicycle to give birth to their daughter. And they returned home with the baby the same way. That’s the kind of safe, fast route that city cyclists want. If you build it, London, the two-wheeled masses will come.
Image: Rendering of the proposed SkyCycle network. Credit: Exterior Architecture, Foster + Partners and Space Syntax