Exterior Architecture, Foster + Partners and Space Syntax – a team who share Lord Foster’s passion for the benefits of cycling – have jointly developed SkyCycle, a new approach to transform cycling in the capital. Following existing suburban railway corridors, 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 – we believe there is a pressing need for network modelling of new capacity for these active, self-determined modes of transport.
The SkyCycle approach is revolutionary, and has potential applications in cities around the world. Applying lateral thinking, Britain’s engineering expertise and investment in transport technology could lead to the creation of an efficient platform building system.
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. Associated benefits include 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.
Early studies of a SkyCycle system indicate that it provides capacity at a much lower cost than building new roads and tunnels. The possibility of the deck providing development opportunities for businesses along the route, particularly where it intersects with stations and bridges, has also been the subject of the study, exploring ideas for public/private commercial growth and regeneration. The SkyCycle study team will continue to further develop these scenarios, and the project has already been presented to the GLA, TfL and Network Rail, as well as to developers and contractors with specialist rail experience.