Futuristic Designs Make for Awesome Bicycle Infrastructure
Anyone who bikes in a city knows that it can be frustrating and dangerous to share the road with cars, particularly when street design privileges drivers over cyclists. For this reason, designers and architects around the world have started to look at how to give cyclists their own throughway through the city. This is a significant change from providing narrow paths or no infrastructure at all for bicyclists, and shows a cultural shift towards bicycling as a prominent mode of urban transport. Two designs from Europe have taken interesting and different approaches towards making cycling a safe and desirable mode of transport. The first, the Hovenring from Eindhoven, Netherlands, deals with a large, busy intersection by providing cyclists with an elevated roundabout. The second, SkyCycle, will provide London cyclists with an elevated bike-highway network that acts like a bridge over the highway, providing bicyclists with a clear, convenient path into the city.
The Hovenring is the first elevated roundabout in the world, and serves as a bypass for cyclists crossing a busy intersection. It was designed following a steady increase in automobile and bike travel between the cities of Eindhoven and Veldhoven. Planners and designers tried to tackle the problem with a variety of different approaches, but ultimately decided that completely separating the bicycles from the cars was the safest solution. The Hovenring was opened to the public in June, 2012 and is now a very popular bicycle route and tourist attraction.
Taking this idea to the next level, Foster+Partners have unveiled a proposal for a 220 km (137 mile) elevated bicycle network throughout the city of London:
“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 route can accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour and will improve journey times by up to 29 minutes.”
The proposed bike network is estimated to cost a cool $12 billion, which is quite the price tag for a cycle infrastructure project. If built, SkyCycle would be the most extensive (and expensive) investment in cycling facilities in the world.
Both of these examples are addressing the growing demand for bicycle transport in different ways. What is also exciting about these projects is the rhetoric behind the ideas. Neither plan was proposed in order to allow more cars on the roads or make navigation easier for cars. Rather, both projects stem from a concern for bicycling safety and increased public mobility. With this in mind, I’d like to pose a question to you fellow readers: Is removing cyclists from the road equation the answer to improved mobility and safety, or is this ultimately just reinforcing the divide between cyclists and automobile users? Let us know what you think.
WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities works to make urban sustainability a reality. Global research and on-the-ground experience in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Turkey and the United States combine to spur action that improves life for millions of people.