January 6, 2014
Demand for London-based workplaces is increasing, but the capital’s transport network is at capacity and ill equipped for a predicted population growth of 12 per cent over the next decade. Despite the Mayor’s efforts to encourage more cycling in the capital, a recent series of accidents has raised concerns about its safety. Architects Foster + Partners together with Exterior Architecture and urban planners Space Syntax have come up with a proposed solution, the SkyCycle network. This consists of a wide, secure deck constructed above the existing suburban railway corridors, to provide over 220 kilometres of safe, car free cycle routes which can be accessed at over 200 entrance points. Each route can accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour and will improve journey times by up to 29 minutes.
According to the designers 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. 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.