Plans for Boris's elevated cycle paths start to take shape

Firm of architects draw up plans for pay-as-you-go cycle routes

by Sarah Barth   September 5, 2012  

London elevated cycle way animation still.png

Last month we reported how Boris Johnson had revealed very rudimentary plans for an elevated cycle path over London, and now a firm of architects has produced sketches of how the project, with the working name SkyCycle, might look.

Sam Martin, a landscape architect and director of Exterior Architecture, has apparently been in discussions with the Mayor of London and Network Rail since May about using disused railway lines above ground in a network linking mainline railway stations across the capital.

Here it is:

Mr Martin told the Daily Mail:

"TfL estimate the number of journeys made by bike will treble to around 1.5 million by 2020. Where are they meant to go? SkyCycle is the next logical step, because you can’t realistically build more cycle lanes on ground level.

"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.

"Boris 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.

"It has been compared to New York’s High Line, which I am familiar with, but the reality is this is a completely different concept."

Mr Martin's plans include a pay-as-you-ride Oyster service, which he proposes costing £1 per journey, with a corporate sponsor like Barclays helping to fund the construction costs.

It is thought the first route could be built on the Olympic regeneration of east London, linking Stratford with the City of London through Liverpool and Fenchurch Street stations but this has yet to be confirmed.

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I'm not sure I agree with you Carlton

I can't watch the video at work - but the article link

a) is about pedestrian ways at first floor level

b) gives no clear indication of why the scheme was scrapped - simply notes that it was

I think in a city like London where cycling on-road is such an intimidating thought, there could very well be an appetite for something like this

I would agree however it's unlikely to work anywhere outside central London and related commute areas

posted by mad_scot_rider [520 posts]
5th September 2012 - 10:10

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jackh wrote:
"TfL estimate the number of journeys made by bike will treble to around 1.5 million by 2020. Where are they meant to go? SkyCycle is the next logical step, because you can’t realistically build more cycle lanes on ground level."

Really? The Dutch managed it...

Agreed, this part of the statement is pure and utter bullshit - you can quite realitically reallocate space to accommodate far more journeys than that stated. He should have simply acknowledged that it can't be done without a slight reduction in capacity for motorised vehicles.

Bonkers idea. I find it particularly galling that it's likely to get a few quids worth of consultancy fees thrown at it before someone asks the more pertinent question of... "am yow on crack?"

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posted by G-bitch [299 posts]
5th September 2012 - 10:56

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Cautious welcome from me.

1. Boris probably won't do it.

2. If it did happen, then the fact that cyclists would be charged for using it will mean that uptake is never 100%, how long before other road users start shouting "You should be on the f***ing skycycle!"

3. Wonder if there would be speed lanes? It would be good for fitness to belt along this at 20mph+, less so if everyone trundle at <15mph.

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2673 posts]
5th September 2012 - 10:56

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On the one hand, I quite like the idea of riding along above the clogged, polluting traffic.

However, if building this kind of infrastructure requires tolls then why do other road construction projects not incur a charge?

Also, why should cyclists have to pay to use a new facility when there is a perfectly good ground-level one available? The roads are only considered dangerous because of the selfish bastards driving cars, vans and lorries who have zero respect for other road users. Why not do something about that instead?

Carlton Reid wrote:
The only real solution is to take space away from cars.

Or remove the cars from the space. They're our streets too.

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posted by Simon E [1812 posts]
5th September 2012 - 11:11

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"you can’t realistically build more cycle lanes on ground level"

There's a contrary argument that runs "Yes. Yes you can. It requires only that you take some space away from motor transport, as has been done very successfully in other European countries."

Also, why do cyclists get the unique privilege of paying to use a public right of way?

posted by steff [81 posts]
5th September 2012 - 11:23

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Stupid Stupid Stupid

"TfL estimate the number of journeys made by bike will treble to around 1.5 million by 2020. Where are they meant to go?

Surely if there are 3 times as many bike journeys some of these will replace journeys that would have taken place by car bus or taxi. So by successfully getting people to transition from other methods of transport you will be able to reduce the amount of "ground level lanes" available to motorised transport and increase that available to cyclists.

Second SimonE's point.

posted by Bhachgen [74 posts]
5th September 2012 - 11:31

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IF it could be made to work, this could be great - but its the funding and charging scheme that will make or break it. If funding plans are based on charging £1 per journey, it won't happen - one of the reasons for commuting by bike is the cost, and using these routes at £1 a go could get pretty expensive! So the financial models would need to be altered majorly to make it free or much cheaper if they want it to be viable. Surely some funding could be found from other transport budgets - this *could* relieve pressure on buses and tubes as well as roads, so those budgets could be used to contribute...

That said, if a yearly access pass was offered (rather like the boris bikes, at £60 a year), I'd probably take it, and I know many others would too. One of the key things stopping a number of people I know from starting cycling to work/into town is traffic, and some good traffic free routes would help massively.

posted by step-hent [643 posts]
5th September 2012 - 13:03

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I don't live in London any more so what Johnson gets up to has little impact on me but I can't help feeling the country would be better off if they'd just have left him dangling on that zip wire.

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posted by joemmo [718 posts]
5th September 2012 - 13:19

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Quote:
"TfL estimate the number of journeys made by bike will treble to around 1.5 million by 2020. Where are they meant to go? SkyCycle is the next logical step, because you can’t realistically build more cycle lanes on ground level.

"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.

Wrong! You just need to copy what they do in the Netherlands. This shows real ignorance. SkyCycle is such a silly idea.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1305 posts]
5th September 2012 - 14:24

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More to the point, I made up this story in January as a joke and now it seems to be coming true!

http://wheelspedalsperson.posterous.com/londons-new-cycling-cloud-tunnel

posted by roseofwinter [36 posts]
5th September 2012 - 14:43

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joemmo wrote:
I don't live in London any more so what Johnson gets up to has little impact on me but I can't help feeling the country would be better off if they'd just have left him dangling on that zip wire.

The biggest disappointment about that incident is that people didn't throw things at him or use him as a piñata.

posted by zanf [392 posts]
5th September 2012 - 14:48

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Quote:
Where are they meant to go? SkyCycle is the next logical step, because you can’t realistically build more cycle lanes on ground level.

I agree with everyone who says this is bollocks.

And to the chap who thinks bike lanes are slow - visit the Netherlands where journeys by bicycle are demonstrably safe and fast.

posted by fluffy_mike [74 posts]
5th September 2012 - 15:36

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Totally agree with Bhachgen, if there's going to be a massive increase in cycling in London then there's going to be a massive decrease in motorised traffic. Anybody who commutes during rush hour will have already noticed this beginning to happen. The key to safer cycling is more cyclists on the road (critical mass and all that etc).

posted by belgravedave [160 posts]
5th September 2012 - 16:10

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Nice idea, but won't work if they're charging for it

posted by sporran [39 posts]
5th September 2012 - 16:13

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How high is that track in the first picture? Surprise

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posted by nowasps [220 posts]
5th September 2012 - 16:35

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Seems a terrible idea to have this covered. That means the wind & rain can't scour the surface, so anything that happens on the skyway, stays on the skyway. Which in London, usually means booze & pish & smoke & boke.

And riding in a greenhouse in the summer doesn't appeal at all.

@nowasps - the first pic is only a metre or two up, they're riding over Legoland Windsor Wink

posted by bazzargh [142 posts]
5th September 2012 - 16:49

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Jings, it's like the intro to Futurama Smile

posted by Cauld Lubter [113 posts]
5th September 2012 - 17:47

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bazzargh wrote:
@nowasps - the first pic is only a metre or two up, they're riding over Legoland Windsor Wink

Really? A model village? There's going to be an elevated cycle-track built over a model village?

I'm feeling stupid now, whether you're kidding or not. Confused

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posted by nowasps [220 posts]
5th September 2012 - 18:13

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Time to deal with the problem and send motor vehicles undergound so the centre of cities can be enjoyed as they should be.

posted by northstar [1026 posts]
5th September 2012 - 18:44

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This is late. About 5 months and 4 days late. Work out the date 5 months and 4 days ago...

Doc

posted by doc [167 posts]
5th September 2012 - 18:45

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This is a complete gimmick. Even if they used disused rail lines - how many are there and do they go where people want to go?

London managed to make space on the roads for the Zil/Olympic lanes - why can they not do it for cycling?

posted by gazza_d [137 posts]
5th September 2012 - 19:09

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Quote:
"TfL estimate the number of journeys made by bike will treble to around 1.5 million by 2020.

Spinning in cycling normally has a different meaning but this is definitely a vested interest spinning the figures.

The more important figure from a planning perspective is the proportion of cycling as a part of all forms of transport. If there is a tripling of cycle journeys there is likely a proportionate drop in other modes of transport within the overall journeys made figure, and in a rational world a contribution of resources.

Then there is the impact of financial policy say a government decided that companies could not make interest free payment for commuting journeys of less than 10 miles but could provide employees with bikes and facilities that could be offset against corporation tax and there was no income tax (benefit in kind) to be levied on the employee as a consequence result massive increase in cycle commuting and the need to amend transport policy and provision. However, if a government was to reduce fuel duty the result would most likely be an increase in number and range of commutes by car.Therefore when considering cycle use as a form of daily transport context is everything.

What these advocates are promoting is the financial interest of those who would finance, develop and build a Skyway the fact that it is intended for cyclist is secondary to their organisation primary purpose.

THE ONLY WAY IS BIKE

posted by lushmiester [154 posts]
5th September 2012 - 19:19

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just one problem: we loose the essential flexibility that a road gives us; that of being able to turn off at the junction of our choice in order to reach our destination by the most direct route. nahhhh. I'll use the roads.

posted by wyadvd [113 posts]
5th September 2012 - 20:25

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Cauld Lubter wrote:
Jings, it's like the intro to Futurama Smile

ha yes! It's just like how the future looked like in 1967, when people still thought it might be quite exciting.

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posted by joemmo [718 posts]
5th September 2012 - 21:21

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@nowasps: maybe this explains it better

posted by bazzargh [142 posts]
5th September 2012 - 21:54

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We've got a shortish elevated cycle tunnel like this in Glagow it's stiflingly hot even in our sun Challenged climate. Like cycling through a greenhouse filled with pish, vomit and shaky jakeys.

posted by richardvaltos [18 posts]
5th September 2012 - 23:52

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The fundamental difference with european countries like the Netherlands and Denmark is that they have dealt with the fundamental cause of congestion which is the oversupply and under pricing of carparking. If you read Donald Shoups excellent "The High Cost of Free Parking" it quickly becomes obvious that trying to promote cycling or any alternate transport mode when local bodies force everyone to subsidise carparking is pissing in the wind. The increase in land pricing, urban sprawl, the economic and social detrimental effects of reduced personal contact and so on have a massive negative effect far beyond what most people understand. Building infrastructure isn't the answer, getting rid of incentives to build bad infrastructure is.

posted by imaca [40 posts]
6th September 2012 - 1:20

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Like BelgraveDave if these figures are to be believed 1.5 mill extra bikes means 1.5 mill less cars so therefore less congestion on the roads, more space to cycle. Also like others have pointed out without loads of ingress/egress points the roads are a far better way to navigate London and since as a council tax payer I have already paid my "road tax" I will carry on using them regardless of whatever white van man says.

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [497 posts]
6th September 2012 - 9:26

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An interesting idea but I can see many challenges.

1) It may pass planning in the poorer boroughs but in the more affluent areas it will get bombed out as noone will want their gentrified streets overlooked by smelly cyclists and the cost of the land (however small) for the pillars to perch it on will be exorbitant.

2) How many access points and exit points, where to put them and how to afford the land to build them. Are they seriously suggesting a route from Stratford to Liv St with no access or exit points, how about emergency access.

3) At those elevated heights how do you avoid it icing up esp overnight. Heated track would involve extra cost.
If you include ventilation to alleviate a greenhouse effect then this will clearly affect winter cycling adversely. Using low heat gain materials may help but would increase the cost greatly. On the plus side the lack of head and cross winds would make cycling a lot easier but cycling in a tube may create unknown vortices that are unforeseen and untestable to discover

4) Charging for usage would be a nonsense you would end up with the M6 Toll road issue, drivers continuing to use the M6 because they object to the extra cost. If an extra 1.5m cyclists used it the benefits would outweigh the costs though the GLA would never directly recoup the cost s so this would not enter the accounting (Tories are very simple when it comes to accounting as the economy if finding out sadly) They could, not that I suggest this, use it as an advertising platform as well.

posted by TechnoTim2012 [6 posts]
6th September 2012 - 11:03

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It is an interesting idea, but I think the basic concept is so flawed and expensive that probably only a short amount, if any will ever be built, just so that Boris can hit the headlines. Why would they have to be covered, seems to add to the cost unnecessarily?

I think an important point made by a number of posts, is that every motorist or commuter who transfers to bikes reduces the the car and public transport congestion, so the idea that no more space can be released for bikes is fundamentally flawed.

However, this type of construction would only be justified for a high volume "trunk" cycle route and I think there is a lot of existing space that could be made available for these. Admittedly this is mainly in the suburbs, but there are a surprising number of railway embankments, edges of parks, playing fields, etc that are easily wide enough to have a safely segregated cycle path on them, and these could link with roads where they cross the railways. Just look out of the window next time you travel into London by train, or have a look on Google maps.

I think the principle of using disused railway lines is a great one, but why do you need to enclose the path in a tube? Also there are not many disused lines in London, and those that do exist have often been built over. I suggested some time ago to Sustrans and several South London boroughs that the old Crystal Palace high level railway tunnels could be used for a cycle way from Crystal Palace to Dulwich but I met with complete disinterest. (As far as I know both tunnels are still there!)

Elevated cycleways are not new, but they are only sensible where new trunk cycle routes can't be built on existing space.

Broadening the discussion a bit I also think that every farm that has ever received a government subsidy should give up space for at least two cycle ways across it. This would facilitate a good rural cycle network, similar to the Netherlands, where good cycle routes exist across the countryside as well as towns.

Finally, remember that the Netherlands has some of the highest population density in the world, and they have found space for cycle ways just about everywhere.

posted by Grumpyoldbiker [15 posts]
7th September 2012 - 20:16

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