SkyCycle: An Elevated Cycle Utopia?



Exterior Architecture, Foster + Partners and Space Syntax have jointly developed SkyCycle, which is a concept idea that they say will 'transform cycling in the capital'.

Foster & Partners, who describe themselves as one of the most 'innovative architechture and integrated design practices in the world' say that SkyCycle would 'follow existing suburban railway corridors and a wide, secure deck would be constructed above the trains to create new cycle routes throughout London'.

The proposed SkyCycle network follows existing suburban rail services and provides over 220 kilometres of safe, car free cycle routes which can be accessed at over 200 entrance points. Almost six million people live within the catchment area of the proposed network, half of whom live and work within 10 minutes of an entrance. Each route can accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour and will improve journey times by up to 29 minutes.

The Mayor’s aim is for London to be the best major city in the world. However, the capital’s transport network is at capacity and faces the challenge of population growth of 12 percent over the next decade. The government has committed to investment in transport, through airport planning, high-speed rail, Thameslink and Crossrail. The Mayor’s transport strategy also seeks to address the needs of pedestrians and cyclists in the city’s crowded streets and in areas where the public realm is poor. The environmental and health benefits of cycling notwithstanding, the bicycle is a more efficient use of London’s limited space – and Foster & Partners believe that 'there is a pressing need for network modelling of new capacity for these active, self-determined modes of transport'.

As London’s railway lines were originally built for steam trains, they follow contours that naturally reduce the amount of energy expended and avoid steep gradients. SkyCycle exploits this historic legacy. In addition, the visionaries list additional associated benefits including;

  • the regeneration of the typically low value, often underutilised industrial sites next to railway lines;
  • vertically layering the city to create new social spaces and amenities on these cycling high streets;
  • and the integration of automated goods delivery networks

Lord Norman Foster, renowned architect and founder of Foster + Partners says that "cycling is one of my great passions – particularly with a group of friends. And 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."

A spokesman for Network Rail said that "we welcome the proposals which have been put forward by Foster + Partners and Exterior Architecture and are always happy to look at ways we can contribute to improving travel and transport in London. We will continue to liaise with all involved as the aspiration for this innovative scheme develops."



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