The bicycle highway: Plans unveiled for £220m ‘Skycycle’ that lets riders commute far above the railways of London

Plans for a network of cycle pathways high above the streets of London have been unveiled by one of the world’s most prominent architects.

SkyCycle is a 135-mile network of roads that would be constructed above existing suburban rail lines to create new cycle routes throughout the capital and has been developed by cycling enthusiast Sir Norman Foster, who designed St Mary Axe, known as ‘The Gherkin’, and the new Wembley Stadium.

The three-storey high routes would be accessed via ramps at more than 200 points.

The first phase is a four mile stretch from east London to Liverpool Street Station would cost an estimated £220m.

The developers say 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.

Each of the 10 proposed routes can accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour and will improve journey times by up to 29 minutes, the developers added. They also claim the scheme, which would be built over 20 years, providing capacity at a much lower cost than building new roads and tunnels.

Lord Foster said: ‘Cycling is one of my great passions – particularly with a group of friends. And 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 already at a premium.

‘SkyCycle is a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city. By using the corridors above the suburban railways, we could create a world-class network of safe, car-free cycle routes that are ideally located for commuters.’

The developers – Exterior Architecture, Foster + Partners and Space Syntax – added that London’s railway lines were originally built for steam trains and as a result follow contours that naturally reduce the amount of energy expended and avoid steep gradients, a boon for cyclists.

Sam Martin of Exterior Architecture Ltd said: ‘SkyCycle is an urban cycling solution for London. A cycling utopia, with no buses, no cars and no stress.

‘We are incredibly excited at how, together with Foster + Partners, our idea has been developed and now more recently turned into a truly world-changing scenario by Space Syntax for revolutionising cycling in London and possibly the world.’

However, cycling charity CTC has raised concerns over the wind exposure cyclist would face at such a height, and the steepness of the ramps required to reach the SkyCycle.

Road safety in London recently came to the fore after six cyclists were killed on the capital’s roads in the space of under two weeks in November.

Brian Holt, 62; Francis Golding, 69, Roger William De Klerk, 43, Venera Minakhmetova, 24, a 21-year-old man from St John’s Wood and a man believed to be in his 60s all died between November 5 and 18.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: ‘We welcome the proposals which have been put forward by Foster + Partners and Exterior Architecture and are always happy to look at ways we can contribute to improving travel and transport in London.

‘We will continue to liaise with all involved as the aspiration for this innovative scheme develops.’

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