London’s cyclists could race around the capital on specially built elevated cycleways at the height of a three storey building, should new plans drawn up by Lord Foster come into fruition.
Foster, the architect who masterminded the Millennium Bridge and Wembley Stadium, has created SkyCycle, a 135-mile network of streets that span 10 routes, accessed from 209 ramps across the city.
Foster says that SkyCycle would allow cyclists to raise their average speed from 10mph to 15mph in the city, protect their lives and cut journey times significantly.
Foster told the Sunday Times (£): “Cycling is one of my great passions — particularly with a group of friends. 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 at a premium. SkyCycle is a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city.”
Huw Thomas, a partner at Foster + Partners, said: “The idea of SkyCycle is to find a way of allowing people to move where they are not in conflict. Above the railways, where we have already got phenomenal connectivity, could we create that new arterial capacity?”
As we reported last year, Exterior Architecture, a landscape firm that originally devised the concept before Foster + Partners became involved, were due to discuss the plans with Network Rail, amid speculation that riders could pay a charge of £1 a time to use the elevated routes.
The proposals have also been presented to David Higgins, chief executive of Network Rail. “We will continue to liaise with all involved as the aspiration for this innovative scheme develops,” Network Rail said.
Boris Johnson and Andrew Gilligan, his cycling adviser, have both seen the plans and have asked for further detail on costs - an estimated £220m to build the first four-mile stretch of the network from Stratford in east London to Liverpool Street railway station.
It is thought that the network would be completed over a 20 year period, with work happening at night to prevent rail disruption.
Roger Geffen, the campaigns director of CTC , said that wind and access to the ramps could prove a problem for some cyclists. He said: “There are issues of wind when you are higher up and no longer sheltered by buildings, particularly if you are above a railway line that is already on a viaduct.
“If they can deal with the issues of shelter and access and gradients . . . it should be very interesting but that’s a lot of ‘ifs’.”
Huw Thomas said that advertising billboards could be used to shield riders from the wind and protect residents’ privacy.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.