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Boris Johnson and Network Rail said to be interested in elevated cycle superhighways

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.

47 comments

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Rouboy [90 posts] 2 years ago
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Nice idea if it comes off.
I wonder if the funds would stretch to all parts of the country???

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bendertherobot [959 posts] 2 years ago
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£220 million for 4 miles? So, literally billions of pounds for the lot?

Will it extend to other parts of the country?

No. It won't ever get off the ground (sic). Brilliant idea. We cannot afford it.

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KiwiMike [1171 posts] 2 years ago
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Complete and utter nonsense. Risk of crime during dark or light hours, sparse on/off ramps, massive cost per mile, everything about this is total BS. Is Foster being paid to distract from doing the only thing that will work?

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Goldfever4 [218 posts] 2 years ago
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My initial reaction was the same as the CTC spokesman - exposure to wind. That membrane thing in the picture seems reasonable, I'm not sure a million advertising boards would be that welcome...

Also, how to stop graffiti? How to stop it becoming a shared-use path (through design or mis-use)? Also, season tickets? If you commute every day by bike and pay £1 a time, you'll spend approximately £500 just for access to a safe route for part of your journey to work. A bit steep?

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gazza_d [459 posts] 2 years ago
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Whatever medicine Lord Foster and Boris are taking, they need to half the dosage.

Good peoples time and energy is being wasted and frittered away on this nonsense instead of planning how to use the space we have most efficently

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Simon E [2652 posts] 2 years ago
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Pie in the sky.

He says "cities where you can walk or cycle rather than drive are more congenial places in which to live" yet he doesn't want to improve London this way, just maintain the unpleasant and unsafe status quo.

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teaboy [311 posts] 2 years ago
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One of the reasons to cycle (especially in London) is because it's free. By charging people £2 a commute this reduces the incentive massively. It also implies that those who have to use the road are 'fair game' for any collisions despite the reality that people travel as directly as they can - these new routes would by definition create huge diversions.

The idea of elevated infrastructure isn't completely ridiculous, but this sort of 'cycling Westway' is. Make our roads safe so people can cycle for short journeys (to school, the shops, etc) as a large proportion of car journeys are shorter than 2 miles anyway!

I wonder how much money has been spent on this already, and where it's coming from?

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zanf [812 posts] 2 years ago
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Absolute nonsense from Johnson once again.

Just like his idea for an airport on Grain Island that would cost multiple billions BEFORE any transport infrastructure linking to it is built, this is a waste of everyone's time nonsense.

It doesn't resolve the fundamental issue: London is over congested and is asphyxiating. Creating elevated cycle ways will not solve the issue.

What will happen is that money will be wasted on this that then has to be recouped, which will end up with these cycle ways being entry fee based.

Of course, then cyclists will avoid them so it will only make sense to introduce bye laws to ban cyclists from the road where they are available fundamentally altering the rights of access to public highways.

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Argos74 [389 posts] 2 years ago
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I think that over the past few years, we've clearly established that drugs and cycling do not mix.

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Leviathan [1888 posts] 2 years ago
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The second decree: no more pollution, no more car exhaust,
or ocean dumpage. From now on, we will travel in tubes!
Get the scientists working on the tube technology, immediately.

So it has come to pass.

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Some Fella [890 posts] 2 years ago
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Ridiculous vanity project just delaying and diverting attention from the woeful infrastructure we have in this country.
The only consolation is that this preposterous 'idea' will never happen.
Instead of spending energy on this the parties involved could be bringing out real change using well proven ideas that have been implemented in other cities.
But instead they just twiddle around with computer renderings and expensive proposal documents and do feck all.

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eurotrash [88 posts] 2 years ago
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I'd like to use something like that if it existed, as it would allow me to travel a lot more quickly and safely (whilst on the skycycle). Wouldn't pay for it though. And realistically, it will never come about, so it's a moot point.

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A V Lowe [573 posts] 2 years ago
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There are indeed some locations where grade separation of traffic (mode, direction etc) can make for less delay and remove the hazard of conflicting movements (a major cause of death & serious injury).

BUT the cycle routes in the sky HAVE to be an integrated part of the whole transport network and the vision of long meandering and ISOLATED routes is not the answer.

There are a few key grade separations which can be built like rail and motorway junctions to provide routes for major flows of cycle, and pedestrian traffic, and in some places the structures, or supporting bases are already in position.

CS2 at Bow - rip out all the inherently dangerous work delivered between Bow High Street and Stratford Station built over the past 5 years. Deliver the official route to the same route taken by over 60% of cyclists currently travelling East-West. Convert 1 lane each way on flyover and make suitable connections at each end at road level

Exit from Waterloo Station (York Road) - a huge bundle of hazards as pedestrians and cyclists and buses & taxis poure out or in to the station with huge congestion at the light controlled crossing, interrupting the through flow along York Road. A high level route connecting directly from Hungerford Bridge, to Waterloo Gate 3 is possible, and a ramped connection to Upper Ground can provide substantial savings for walking (and cycling) times between Waterloo and the South Ban, West End and Whitehall. The cycling connection to Upper Ground would also provide a route for cyclists which avoids the delays and hazards of using the IMAX roundabout to head East for the City (25% of cycle traffic on Blackfriars Bridge is generated by cycle users following the route of the Waterloo & City Tube line - a major use of the Boris Bikes as well)

Old Street/City Road roundabout - a through cycling route, possibly rising at the Junction between Great Eastern Street and Old Street, and serving the second biggest flows of cycle traffic in London to come down to the West Side of the roundabout - or to consider dropping down - slopes of half the length required to go up, and running in a shallow trench which the road rises to go over. Going down means much less land is required for ramps (half the length) and visual impact/overlooking effects are reduced.

Southwark Bridge/Upper Thames Street - Consider making Southwark Bridge Cycles and pedestrian traffic only with emergency only access for motor vehicles. A flyover rising from the crown of the bridge crosses to land on Queen Street, which rises up as a walking and cycling corridor in to the heart of the City. Southwark Bridge is neatly between Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge, and can be developed as a focus for some of the cycle traffic put off using those bridges with their high levels of motorised traffic. It will need an improved connection to the South Bank and through this provide a clean route from Waterloo to the City which avoids high hazard locations such as the IMAX roundabout, Blackfriars Bridge junctions, St Pauls gyratory melee etc.

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Bigfoz [118 posts] 2 years ago
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Hmmm. Let me see. Car drivers will now realise they DO own the roads, and any cyclists riding the 1/2mile from home to nearest on-ramp will be deemed to be "in the wrong place" and rightfully mown down.

It's attitudes, not infrastructure that needs to change.

Car drivers in general (and I include myself), drive too fast, rely too much on technology and do not pay proper attention when driving, and seem to have this misapprehension that they own the road. If we could beat that out of the system, there would be no need to spend money on cycling infrastructure.

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Chuck [534 posts] 2 years ago
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Looks great in the artist's impression but not so sure this is a good idea. There are practical issues like not much flexibility when you're on it, not sure you'd want to be on one alone late at night, ramps etc etc.

From a more of idealogical point of view, I'm with BigFoz in that what we need is new attitudes rather than infrastructure. This will (not that it would ever actually be built) reinforce the idea that bikes shouldn't be on the road.

Personally I think it'll take more autonomous cars and a shift away from the private car ownership model we 'enjoy' now to make our streets better places to be for everyone- but I'm not holding my breath.

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lobophyllia [7 posts] 2 years ago
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Did no-one learn from the 60's where architects talked of 'streets in the sky' which turned into nightmarish, crime ridden council estates with walkways.

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jarredscycling [456 posts] 2 years ago
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I can not even imagine what this project would cost but I hope it works out somehow.

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AWPeleton [3277 posts] 2 years ago
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What a complete and utter load of bollocks.

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belgravedave [268 posts] 2 years ago
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£55 million a mile which will probably end up £100 million. Imagine instead if that money was spent on policing the roads? Ok so we may have to curtail jumping lights but that would be a small price to pay.
The moment drivers or cyclists or even dopey pedestrians see police they become saints, now imagine that all over London.

After ten years you could reduce the number of officers as peoples habits would have changed and far more people would be cycling.
Oh and crime in London would drop dramatically massively improving the quality of life, saving Londoners a fortune and encouraging huge amounts of inward investment.

Will never happen though as there's no money in it for big business.

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vbvb [577 posts] 2 years ago
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Sounds brilliant, just the ticket!  36

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parksey [343 posts] 2 years ago
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Have to say that I'm intrigued by this proposal, but am not convinced that segregation such as this is the answer, particularly if you would have to pay to use it (M6 Toll anyone?).

On a related funding note, there does seem to be a glaringly obvious sponsorship opportunity here, the clue being in the name of the scheme itself. That may solve a large part of the problem in getting it off the ground - no pun intended!

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ronin [263 posts] 2 years ago
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Now let's see...

OK, so opening scene of Blade Runner, the camera pans...what, what, what - is that people on bikes in tubes??!!!  1

Now, obviously they are recognize that cyclists (in general) are an evolved bunch that need to cruise in the sky above the common car driving neanderthal  1

* * * * *

OK down to business. Boris, the cars are the problem. Spend the money on a decent tube system. One which you don't have to squash into just to get to work. I think it's illegal to treat animals like that, why is OK for tax paying humans?

The bottom line is it's better to sort this issue out now, before the oil starts to run out.

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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......but when the oil runs out we'll have a national network of wide asphalt cycleways!

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Ghedebrav [1100 posts] 2 years ago
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This is, to use a Hesjedal-ism, coconuts.  35

How this crackpot and self-evidently stupid notion has even got this far, I don't know. It's a child's idea, though presumably even a child would recognise some of the problems inherent to it. Textbook Johnson stuff - as with the cockamamie island airport, all he cares about is the press release with his name on it, not the execution of a practical idea.

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Simon E [2652 posts] 2 years ago
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allez neg wrote:

......but when the oil runs out we'll have a national network of wide asphalt cycleways!

Could be a lot sooner if the politicians took brave, forward-think decisions to provide safe, useable infrastructure.

Netherlands and Copenhagen show it can be done, and the huge number of people getting around by pedal power.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1178 posts] 2 years ago
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gazza_d wrote:

Whatever medicine Lord Foster and Boris are taking, they need to half the dosage.

Good peoples time and energy is being wasted and frittered away on this nonsense instead of planning how to use the space we have most efficently

Either that or they need to double it.

This is a ridiculous concept.

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ChairRDRF [306 posts] 2 years ago
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"Hmmm. Let me see. Car drivers will now realise they DO own the roads, and any cyclists riding the 1/2mile from home to nearest on-ramp will be deemed to be "in the wrong place" and rightfully mown down.

It's attitudes, not infrastructure that needs to change.

Car drivers in general (and I include myself), drive too fast, rely too much on technology and do not pay proper attention when driving, and seem to have this misapprehension that they own the road. If we could beat that out of the system, there would be no need to spend money on cycling infrastructure."
_____________________________________________----------

Absolutely. You do have to have some infrastructural changes for cycling, but they are about taking space from motor traffic on our streets, not sticking us up in the sky.

When it comes to cycling, there's always an excuse for not doing what needs to be done.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1178 posts] 2 years ago
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So the surface of the planet, which belongs to all of us, is to implictly be reserved for motorists, while cyclists will have to pay a special premium in order to travel anywhere?

How long before they decide that pedestrians also need to be shoved out of the way of the motorist (and charged for the privilege also?).

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Hensteeth [73 posts] 2 years ago
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 21 21 21 21 21 21 21 21 21
hahahahahahahahahahahahaha

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babybat [27 posts] 2 years ago
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£55m a mile? For that kind of investment you could make improvements to the existing road network that would give Holland a run for their money. We don't need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to learn from what already works in the country with the highest modal share of cycling.

As for the 'London's narrow road network' nonsense, take a drive along the Euston Road, through Vauxhall, Pall Mall or Old Street, and tell me there's no space. We've got space for five lane urban gyratories, but bike lanes need to be at sky level? Ridiculous.

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