Solving Cities

Imagining an elevated bicycle highway in London

Imagining an elevated bicycle highway in London

Posting in Architecture

London is considering infrastructure to make biking in the city fast and safe.

Even on the safest on-street bicycle lanes, riding in congested cities can be downright scary. That's why despite a bicycle "superhighway," bikeshare, and a tax to deter cars from the city center, London is considering adding a safe and efficient bike infrastructure system. In the eyes of one architect it would look something like this:

That's SkyCycle, an elevated bicycle-only network, designed by Sam Martin, an architect with Exterior Architecture.

With annual bike ridership expected to reach 1.5 million by 2020, Martin envisions the elevated bike highway as a solution crowded London streets. According to Martin, going to the sky is the best solution, the Daily Mail reports:

'You have to start knocking down buildings and there will always be the problem of traffic. It will be less safe than it is now and you can’t persuade people to get on bikes as it is even if you keep raising taxes on cars.'

[Martin] added: '[London Mayor] Boris [Johnson] loves the idea and Network Rail are really positive about it. I sincerely believe it could be the next significant piece of London infrastructure and would transform the capital.'

This idea is still in the early stages with feasibility studies underway. But if work moves quickly on the plan it could become reality as soon as 2015.

The elevated bike highway looks like a joy to ride. But you would have to take the good with the bad.

Cities are trying to get rid of elevated car highways that are disruptive in neighborhoods. A bike highway might not be as big as one made for cars, but it would still have the same fundamental problem that elevated highways have: it takes important traffic away from storefronts and businesses that line those streets.

On the other hand, an elevated bike highway could encourage more people to ride their bikes because you don't have to worry about being doored and slowing down at intersections would be a thing of the past. The best strategy might be to run the route alongside already existing elevated rail routes when possible, an idea that would save on infrastructure costs.

The cost for the project would be in the "tens of million of pounds" range. Though costs could be offset. Much like the "superhighway," the elevated highway could get a corporate sponsor. Plus, bikers would pay a small fee for each ride. The project would take about two years to build.

(h/t Grist)

Image: A video screenshot courtesy of Exterior Architecture

Share this

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure