Could Norman Foster’s SkyCycle vision see Londoners soaring over rooftops to get to work?

Imagine coasting into central London on a car-free elevated cycle-way: No traffic lights, no big lorries turning left, no need to change lanes amid heavy traffic, just the hum of the tyres and the occasional rumbling of a train below the deck…

Well, the dream could become reality if Foster and Partners and Exterior Architects have it their way. This week, the companies unveiled their SkyCycle project, a plan that proposes a snazzy network of elevated cycling paths constructed above existing train lines.

The idea, which already has the support of Transport for London and Network Rail, would see more than 220km of dedicated aerial cycling infrastructure erected.

According to the designers, the car-free routes would be suspended by pylons above London’s suburban rail network and would be accessed at 200 entrance points. At up to 15 metres wide, the paths could accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour and improve journey times by up to 29 minutes, it is claimed.

Foster and Partners said that the location of the infrastructure, above railway lines, could also have positive effects on currently under-developed land. In a statement, the firm said: “Associated benefits include the regeneration of the typically low-value, often under-utilised industrial sites next to railway lines.”

Other benefits include reducing carbon emissions, creating new social spaces and the integration of automated goods delivery networks.

Lord Foster, who counts cycling as one of his “great passions”, said: “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.”

Despite the idea seeming somewhat far-fetched, the designers argue that SkyCycle could provide capacity for the capital’s growing numbers at less than the cost of building new roads and tunnels. Foster and Partners also point out that cycling in London has grown by 70% in the last decade, with a rise in the number of cyclists on major roads having increased by 173%.

However, finding funding remains the biggest issue for SkyCycle, with the designers currently looking for money to conduct a feasibility study.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Anonymous

    Excellent idea. But who pays for it?
    It is time that cyclists contributed, had to be insured and subject to the rules of the road as are other users.

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  • Good idea, but how many derailments do you here and not hear about?

    also what about the rising smog problem!

    have they really thought this through?

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  • Poor cheese grater isn't even in the picture ?? ??

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