Foster[ing] New Cycle Infrastructure

Image ©Foster + Partners

Exterior Architecture, Foster + Partners and Space Syntax have joined together to develop a new type of cycling infrastructure in London that utilises the existing railway corridors that snake through the city.

Called SkyCycle, the group proposes building wide secure decks above the trains to provide Superhighways offering continuity and priority from suburb to centre. They have identified 220 kilometres of car free routes and propose over 200 entrance points using ramps and hydraulic lifts. It is claimed that each arterial route could accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour and improve journey times by up to 29 minutes. According to the team, six million people live within the catchment area of the network being proposed with half living and working within 10 minutes of an entrance.

In the UK, many railway lines abandoned after the Beeching cuts of the 1960’s have since had new life breathed into them as long distance walking and cycling routes such as the Downs Link or the Tarka Trail. It’s a logical choice – as former lines, they would have been engineered to reduce gradients and energy expended as much as possible. The SkyCycle team are applying the same logic to the suburban railway lines of London and their early studies indicate that these routes can provide capacity at a much lower cost than building new bridges and tunnels. It can also take cyclists away from a traffic system developed over time principally for the benefit of motorised traffic with all it’s necessary controls such as multi-lane gyratories, junctions where conflict between HGV’s and cyclists have had tragic consequences and the removal of the stop-start nature of traffic lights providing continuity of travel.

Lord Foster, himself a keen cyclist stated, “..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.”

The scheme has already been presented to the GLA, TfL and Network Rail with further scenarios being developed by the SkyCycle Team.

Jim Davis