Photo: Foster and Partners
Two wheels is always better than four when you’re talking about sustainable transport, but there are still barriers to be overcome for cycling to become the rule rather than the exception – not least in congested cities like London.
The dangers posed to cyclists by high volumes of vehicles on roads and inadequate cycling infrastructure was brought home by 14 deaths on London roads in 2013, but now, a kind of utopia for urban cyclists has been mooted.
Architectural giant Foster and Partners, working with a consortium of other experts has put forward SkyCycle, a striking plan for 220km of bike lanes running high above existing train lines and funded by a subscription fee. Lord Foster himself lays down the rationale:
“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.”
Space Syntax, a partner in the proposal, has compared the social and health benefits of the plans to the building of the capital’s sewer system. Whether that is hyperbole or not, such a plan would represent a significant breakthrough for the tentative riders of London, and offer the kind of cityscapes that would no doubt influence a lot who’ve never even considered biking for work or leisure.
From Foster to another established London icon – the black cab. Cabbies could also contribute towards reduced carbon emissions and particulate pollution, after London’s Mayor Boris Johnson told taxi manufacturers that the date for all new London cabs to require zero-emissions capability was being brought forward by two years, to 2018.
This is all part of plans for an Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London in 2020. There’s no doubt that this will require a huge roll-out of charging points in a relatively short space of time, plus some incentives for regular users of central streets such as cabbies to make changes to the tools of their trade. Support is expected via the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles and the Green Investment Bank.
So, all points to a near-future infrastructure overhaul in London. If you’re itching to make your own, more immediate moves in cutting transport emissions and costs, have a look at energy saving trust advice.