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Could cycle lanes in the sky make London safer?

SkyCycle concept proposes cycle lanes above rail tracks. 

Here’s a novel solution for keeping cyclists safe from motorists: segregate them completely. Architect Lord Norman Foster has come up with a clever proposal that could see cycle lanes built above railway networks, giving cyclists their own, private road network. His proposal, known as SkyCycle, would see elevated cycling routes built around the capital, mirroring the path taken by trains.

These cycle lanes in the sky would be built over the top of the rail network, putting already available space to good use while allowing cyclists to commute around the city ─ free from the dangers of pedestrians and vehicles. Exposure to nasty exhaust fumes would also be reduced.

The SkyCycle network, which is the brainchild of Foster + Partners, Exterior Architecture and transport consultants Space Syntax, would have the capacity to accommodate as many as 12,000 cyclists every hour, with the entire 136-mile (220km) network and its 200 entrances up to the task of serving nearly six million people.

“To improve the quality of life for all in London and to encourage a new generation of cyclists, we have to make it safe,” Lord Foster explained. “However, the greatest barrier to segregating cars and cyclists is the physical constraint of London’s streets, where space is already at a premium.”

Much of the railway network is as flat as Norfolk, eliminating the need to tackle steep hills.

Other aspects of the design outlined in the proposal include “cycling high streets” lined with shops and cafes, the addition of “automated goods delivery networks” and making properties located by railways – many of which usually suffer negatively in terms of financial value – more sought-after.

Motorists users would also benefit from the implementation of SkyCycle, as they’d be less likely to collide with their cyclist cousins. 

At this stage the proposal is exactly that, a proposal, but the idea is being pitched to the various bodies that run London’s vast transport system. If all goes to plan it could become a reality ─ albeit an expensive one. Here’s hoping it does, because no other alternative seems to tick quite as many boxes.

Cycling safety in the capital has been a hot topic in recent times. The proposal comes in the wake of six cycling deaths over a period of 14 days in November, taking the 2013 total to 14.

SkyCycle: a good or bad idea? Let us know.


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