London’s Innovative ‘Sky Cycle’ – Imagining a World with No Cars

skycycleLondon, the home of arts, entertainment, business, celebrity lifestyles and a fantastic example of too many damn peas in one pod.

London is not the worst capital negatively effecting pollution levels, not by a long way. Though, considering its size-to-population ratio, there is still a major problem to be addressed.

London is responsible for 5,879 deaths due to nitrogen dioxide poisoning according to a study conducted by The Telegraph. In the same year, London’s shopping hotspot Oxford Street was crowned the most polluted street… On Earth. With the capital’s transport network already at peak capacity, it faces a further population increase of 12% over the next decade. Being the owner of James Waste Management, I am constantly striving to improve the preservation of our ecosystem and the SkyCycle is one that I sincerely hope comes to fruition.

Back in 2012, Sir Norman Foster, the architect who designed and built London’s Gherkin tower, has been working with Exterior Architecture and Space Syntax on a project that could revolutionise transport and our ecosystem exponentially.

The SkyCycle – London’s Answer to Pollution and Congested Streets

‘The Big Smoke’ could transform into ‘The Cycle City’… or something far wittier.

The plan is to create a 136-mile cycle route that would encourage people to commute around London via bicycle. The first propose phased is creating a route from east London to Liverpool Street Station. If approved, ten routes would be built above existing railways, taking roughly 20 years to complete.

The project would cost more than £200,000,000 though a small price to pay to severely dent the armoured plate-body of the pollution tyrant. Foster believes that “Cities where you can walk or cycle rather than drive are more congenial places in which to live.” Gliding through the city like a contemporary E.T doesn’t seem like such a farfetched idea these days.

How it will Benefit London?

Early studies of the SkyCycle system indicate that it provides capacity at a much lower cost than building new roads and tunnels and would be far easier to maintain.

Within London’s history, other major infrastructure projects have transformed the capital’s fortunes. Bazalgette’s sewer system being a prime example. The system helped remove the threat of cholera to keep London at the forefront of the industrial revolution. The underground strengthened London’s core by making long-distance commuting possible. SkyCycle holds the same attitudes and concerns but seeks to improve not only the efficiency of the city’s transportation prospects, but will also seriously impact our ecosystem in a positive way.

Putting more people on bikes comes with obvious benefits:

• Less air pollution
• Less traffic
• Less CO2 emissions
• Less oil/petrol/diesel usage

Other Countries Have Begun to Follow Suit

SkyCycle would cover an area of six million people, half of whom live and work within 10 minutes of an entrance. Though, the SkyCycle concept stretches beyond London alone.

Sam Martin of Exterior Architect dreams of “waking up in Paris and cycling to the Gare du Nord. Then get the train to Stratford, and cycle straight into central London in minutes, without worrying about trucks and buses.”

Hamburg has adopted a very similar strategy by banning all cars from their city by 2034.

The focus is to replace the car with the bicycle, encouraging commuters to cycle to work and indulge in the refreshing landscape.

This will be put into motion following the audacious urban development scheme named “Green Network.” Public transport services such as busses and trams will be active but people are advised to travel via bicycle or on foot. A series of idyllic green thoroughfares are being created to invite people to travel car-free.

Hamburg’s spokeswoman Angelika Fritsch envisions “a network that doesn’t just help residents get from point A to B in a sustainable fashion. It will offer people opportunities to hike, swim, do water sports, enjoy picnics restaurants, experience calms and watch nature right in the city.”

Other cities following similar concepts are:

• Madrid – Having already banned traffic from certain cities, the car-ban continues to expand. They will allow neighbourhood residents to drive, though anyone else will be hit with a fine over £100.

• Madrid hopes to completely pedestrianise its streets in the next 5 years.

• Paris – when smog levels spiked in Paris in 2015, Paris banned cars with even-numbered plates, causing pollution levels to drop as much as 30%. By 2020, plans are to double the number of bike lanes in the city, ban diesel cars and limit certain high-traffic streets to electric cars and other ultra-low-emission vehicles.

• Chengdu – Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill have proposed a new design wherein the streets are designed so any location can be reached in 15 minutes. Out of around 80,000 people, most will be able to walk to work in local neighbourhoods.

• Helsinki – with so many people flooding to Helsinki, this means that fewer cars will be allowed on the streets. The city looks to lay out a design that will transform car-dependent suburbs into walkable communities linked to the city centre via fast-moving public transport.

In the next decade, the city hopes to make it completely unnecessary to own a car.

• Milan – if commuters leave their vehicles at home, they’ll get free public transport vouchers. An internet-connected box on the dashboard tracks the car’s location, so no one can cheat and drive.

• Copenhagen – arguably the most recognised eco-friendly capital in the world. Half the city’s population travel via bike every day. Their traffic problems in the 1960s was as any other large city. Noticing this, they started introducing pedestrian ones in the city centre, and have been expanding them ever since.

The city now has one of the lowest car owners in Europe.

Having a capital as car-abundant as London transform itself for the betterment of our ecosystem will encourage other countries to follow suit. If you yourself live close-by to work, or in an area abundant with public transport options, it’s definitely worth utilising them. More than 40,000 people die prematurely each year from air pollution in the UK, and this figure will only increase in the coming years if nothing is done.

So, throw on your helmet and start peddling. Car-banning is approaching you whether you like it or not. Best start getting used to breathing in that fresh air!

Author: Ben Taylor

Eco Warrior! Recycling Buff! Owner of James Waste Management LLP, UK recycling over 90% of waste.

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