Could Lord Foster's SkyCycle scheme take off?

The Pritzker laureate wants to build 220 kilometres of cycle routes above London's train lines
Renderings of the SkyCycle scheme
Renderings of the SkyCycle scheme

Lord Foster might have led one of the most impressive careers in architecture, yet he still finds time for some leisure activities - he's both an avid cross-country skier and cyclist. "Cycling is one of my great passions – particularly with a group of friends,” says the architect in a press release for one of his firm's more impressive proposals. “And I believe that cities where you can walk or cycle, rather than drive, are more congenial places in which to live.”

With this in mind, Foster + Partners has teamed up with landscape architects, Exterior Architecture and the planning firm Space Syntax to come up with SkyCycle, a 220 kilometre car-free bike lane network, that Foster and co. says could be constructed above the city's rail network. The team says the proposed scheme, which could accommodate 12,000 bikes an hour, would make cycling to work safer, and cut journey times by up to 29 minutes.


“By using the corridors above the suburban railways," says Foster, "we could create a world-class network of safe, car free cycle routes that are ideally located for commuters."

In the accompanying notes, the firm explains that London’s railway lines were originally built for steam trains, and so they follow contours that naturally reduce the amount of energy expended and avoid steep gradients, making them great routes for bike riders.


Lord Foster with his Moulton bicycle
Lord Foster with his Moulton bicycle

London's existing cycle lanes are piecemeal at best, yet the city has a reputation for trying new transport ideas, from an underground rail network through to the congestion charge zone. The scheme might look fanciful, But a growing appreciation for the sport, coupled with widespread obesity and shrinking fossil fuel reserves, might bring SkyCycle within the city's reach. For more on this go here. And for greater insight into the future of city living, pick up a copy of Living In The Endless City. For more on architecture around the world, take a look at our The Phaidon Architecture Travel Guide App, the essential tool for any traveller who wants to discover contemporary architecture in glowing detail while travelling abroad.

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