Just what we did not need

Rendering of the proposed London bikeway system

…A $12 billion (with a b) elevated superhighway for bicycles.

http://www.architectmagazine.com/design/london-skycycle-transit-network-designed-by-norman-foster-partners-exterior-architecture_o.aspx

We’re big fans of human-powered transit, and apart from walking, biking is one of the best ways to get from point A to point B. But Lord Foster’s idea for a network of elevated bike lanes is the worst mashup of postwar hubris and postcrash sustainability we’ve ever seen.

There are so many things wrong with this idea, it’s hard to know where to start. OK, the price tag: for $12 billion, you could create ten times as many dedicated bike lanes as this constructed boondoggle. Yes, the cyclists would have to stop at red lights, but that was the same argument that brought us all the elevated urban expressways we’re trying to tear down now.

And there’s the elevated part.  Biking on hills is difficult if you don’t own one of those $20,000 featherweight racing bikes. Do you really want every trip to start with a grind up an access ramp? Once you’re up there, what do you look at? How often are there exit ramps? Every block? Or do you have to backtrack half a mile after you exit the bikespressway? And to get philosophical for a moment, one of the joys of cycling is close contact with the ground plane–you know, where the grass and trees are. This antiseptic bike sewer would be as much fun as riding in a concrete ditch like the Los Angeles river does.

Look closely at the rendering. What are you not seeing? You’re not seeing a shadow under the bikeway. Curiously, all the renderings from the 1950s of elevated interstate highways didn’t cast any shadows, either. Must be some special kind of concrete they use.

Let’s say it again: we’re in favor of bike transit. Bikes are great. We wish more Americans rode more bikes more often. But this idea is ready for the dustbin of history before the first kilometer is built. Not that we have any great expectation that it will be.

 

About David Greusel

David Greusel is founding principal of Convergence Design. He has more than 30 years' experience in the architectural profession, having worked as a designer, manager, and principal in charge of projects ranging from closet remodels to new Major League ballparks.
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