London has a bicycle issue

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In many cities cycling is the number one choice of transport. According to the Copenhagenize Index,[1] cities like Amsterdam, Bordeaux, or Munich are places where cycling is accepted as a feasible and safe form of transport. In many other places in the world this is not the case. Overall, there’s an increase in urban bicycle use everywhere but most cities do not take the necessary measures to support this trend. One of these places is London where five people where struck and killed by motor vehicles within nine days in early November last year.[2] Europe’s multicultural hub is urged to improve its road safety.

What are the options?

Despite the ongoing discussions the accidents have triggered, measures are unlikely to be taken. Boris Johnson, Major of London and once celebrated for introducing the popular “Boris Bikes”, is reluctant to review London’s cycling infrastructure. Four out of the five deaths happened on one of the so-called “superhighways” introduced in 2008. Essentially, these are narrow blue lanes painted onto the road indicating “cycler’s only”. Implemented to shrug off calls for safer cycling back then, the situation appears to have not improved an inch. But cycling will remain and probably gain in popularity – also in London where public transport is not what you’d call cheap. So what can a metropolis like London do in order to meet this demand? Well, to be honest, the situation is not easy. Space is at a premium in London, so physically separating cars from bicycles will be impossible. Or is it? How do you find space in a congested city?

Touch the sky

In late December 2013, star-architect and passionate cycler Norman Foster unveiled plans for a network of elevated bike paths in London.[3] Under the name “Skycycle”, these paths would be constructed above railway lines allowing swarms of cyclers to do their thing without any car interference. In total, ten routes could be installed, accessed at more than 200 entrance points, so that more than six million Londoners could directly benefit from SkyCycle. It’s a magnificent idea, really, but only four miles of the planned 135-mile network are said to cost around 220 million Pounds. The need is immense, the idea looks extremely practical, and there’s a famous architect attached to the project. Could this work? Of course, in the end, money will decide. However, London is aware of its transport problems and will have to deal with them sooner or later. Investing heavily in an idea like Foster’s could turn out to ensure safe and environmentally friendly travelling for generations to come.

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