Category Archives: Urban Cycle Schemes

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

Smarter Mobility: an evening of debate hosted by Intelligence Squared

Smarter Mobility_Web Res-191

This debate, held at The Royal Institute of Great Britain and supported by Shell, aimed address the question of delivering smarter mobility options in ever-increasingly congested megacities, such as Los Angeles and Sao Paulo. Leading the line were five of the field’s most innovative thinkers, brought together in an effort to sketch out the future of smart mobility, and was chaired by Matthew Taylor, the Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).


Professor Paul Newman
A Professor of Engineering and leader of the Mobile Robotics Group at the University of Oxford, Professor Newman is an expert in driverless vehicle technology. He argued that, while the growth of driverless technology was inevitable, it will not occur overnight. Rather, the proliferation of autonomous vehicles will be a gradual progression. Key to this, Professor Newman stated, was the ability of vehicles to interpret their surroundings and learn without the help of external inputs such as GPS.

Robin Chase
Founder and CEO of Buzzcar, as well as co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, Robin is a pioneer in the car-sharing marketplace. Focusing on the potential benefits of a city fully embracing car-sharing schemes, Robin observed that the development of car-sharing schemes would reduce the number of vehicles on the road, highlighting the vast majority of time personally owned cars spend parked and unused. This development also spells the proposition of the most functional, appropriate vehicles being made available to users at opportune times.

Jerry Saunders
Jerry is the CEO of Skytran, a company developing a rapid transit system that utilises maglev technology. Skytran, a NASA Space Act Company, has initially been developing this system for Tel Aviv. Skytran’s transportation pods run along tracks fitted above street level, and can travel at speeds of 100-200 kmph. Skytran will be capable of taking up to 11,500 passengers per hour on each guideline, with each pod using only one third of the energy of a hybrid car. When questioned on the greatest challenge facing this ambitious project, Jerry responded that it was not technological or developmental, but rather obstacles created by governments unable to fully understand and categorise this transportation alternative.

Ben Hamilton-Baillie
Ben is an urban designer and one of the leading proponents of the idea of ‘shared space’, a proposed solution to city congestion that involves the removal of street furniture and traffic controls. This low-tech and cheap congestion solution will increase road safety and vehicle flow by increasing user awareness of fellow users sharing the space around them, Ben argued.

David Rowan
The final speaker, David Rowan, editor of the UK edition of WIRED, attempted to tie together the various solutions proposed today. Key to David’s final messsage was the requirement of societies to reduce their fixation on personal ownership and embrace the idea of collective information, resources and ownership in the pursuit of smarter mobility.


The event concluded with a Q&A during which concerns raised by the audience focused on issues such as the transportation of goods, and what driverless cars and car-sharing schemes meant for those holding a passion for vehicles themselves. The first concern was met with a general consensus that there remains a considerable way to go in the development of goods transportation systems, especially within cities themselves. The second issue was handled by Professor Newman, who, reiterating an earlier point, argued that technology exists to provide its users with choices, and that an individual wishing to continue driving their own car will be free to do so.

Alexander Malden

Catch 22 thwarts New York heavyweights

citibike 2

This week New York launched its long awaited cycle share scheme, Citi Bike. Following in the tracks of Paris’ Velib and London’s Boris Bikes the project will host 6000 cycles in 330 stations.

Sponsored to the tune of some $41m USD by CitiBank the project has met with some resistance from residents and shopkeepers but recent polls suggest show supporters at 70%.

Rental costs $95 USD per year or $10 USD for a 24 hour pass.

However, those overweight New Yorkers seeking to lose weight by pedal power will be disappointed as the cycles have a weight restriction of 260lb.

Michael Hammond