London SkyCycle : why this is not going to work.

"SkyCycle : a revolutionary cycling infrastructure to transform London's transport network".
That's how it's announced by one of the developers, Space Syntax.
"Over 220 km of safe, car free cycle routes, high above London traffic. Can be accessed at over 200 entrance points".
SkyCycle impression
Looks great. But I don't think it is going to work. Not like this.
The great advantage of riding a bicycle is being able to move quickly through an urban environment, in full flexibility of movement. Skycycle will limit that.
Furthermore SkyCycle paths are high above ground, so you have to go up and down. Ramps and slopes, or vulnerable elevators. In any case, delay.
Sounds nice, a SkyCycle exit about every kilometre. But in practise, for your route, you will still have to ride for considerable distance through totally bike unfriendly streets. The 1/2 km left to cycle off-SkyCycle they mention is theoretical wishful thinking. It will be much more. And once "on the ground" the feeling of hazardous cycling will be the same as today.
In all, little will change I'm afraid. Cycling still limited for the young and the daring. Certainly not for a general public.
SkyCycle may be of some use for longer distance commuting, if your destination is directly at an exit. And if they have parking facilities for bikes there ! Not part of the plan, it appears.
And what about mopeds ? Couldn't find information on that point either.
If mopeds are allowed, these SkyCycle lanes will quickly become a mopeds paradise. Effectively chasing away cyclists.
And then, you may have to pay a toll for using the bicycle skylanes...
Sorry, SkyCycle being ever so high tech and dazzling, such an isolated straitjacket for cyclists will not work. As long as there's no improved infrastructure downstairs, and above all, as long as the attitudes of car drivers towards cyclist does not change. With Skycycle, car drivers are even less bound to get used to cyclists, since large scale cycling goes in isolation, "upstairs".
The London cycling situation, and the frustration of having to cycle in a "war zone" there, was brought to my attention by a group from London I cycled with in and around Amsterdam.
They were here for a project, studying Dutch bicycle infrastructure. Later, back in London, they were going to discuss the matter further with London city council officials. Interesting outline.
In a full day bike trip, I guided the group of about 20 students and supervisors through Amsterdam, the outskirts, and a bit of countryside. To get an overall view of Dutch bicycle infrastructure in different surroundings.
They told me that, sure, indeed was no even remotely comparable cycling infrastructure in London. But they considered the attitudes of car drivers an even greater problem. London drivers being not used to cyclists, reacting sometimes aggressively to their presence. Also, they have no idea at all of the vulnerability of cyclists.
Sounded like total lack of mutual understanding in all respects. And that's a serious basic problem.
It is an illusion that a better cycling infrastructure for London, or any other place, can be achieved without the motorist giving up some of the limited space. And that's not going to happen voluntarily.
The essential difference with London is that, especially over the last couple of decennia, the bicycle has generally been taken seriously by planners and authorities in Holland. For local short range transportation, and for longer distance.
Actually, we do have our version of SkyCycle lanes. But then "on the ground floor". Not spectacular, but very efficient. And at a fraction of the costs.
An extensive system of signposted commuting routes has been developed over the years. For through cycling traffic. Radiating to and all through the city. With minimized direct contact with motorized traffic. Even in the city centre separate lanes for these main bike routes, where at roundabouts and junctions cyclists have priority.
In the suburbs, when main bike routes cross busy traffic, it's often on a different level, tunnel or bridge for bicycles. Or at least bike friendly crossings with adapted traffic lights.
In any case, ground floor means that you can get off the main bike route any time anywhere. Into the streets were regular traffic rules apply, meaning that car and bicycle have the same rights.
Of course, also off the main bike routes you'll often find bike paths, or at least a cycle lane painted on the street. But cyclist don't have right of way here.
Anyway, on a bike in the centre of Amsterdam, you can move around rapidly, and in full flexibility. Much faster than by car or public transportation.
My guests found Amsterdam and surroundings a cyclists paradise. Probably true compared to London, but overall exaggerated, of course. Still plenty of room for improvement. While other cities in the Netherlands have a far better cycling infrastructure than Amsterdam.
Now, don't believe for a minute that it is all unchallenged, or self-evident, and came about without struggle. See bike history on this website.
But it cannot be denied that the approach is successful, considering the prominent position of the bicycle in city traffic.
On the other hand, overcrowded bike paths, combined with the Dutch fondness of (cycling) anarchy brings other problems of its own.
There's no heaven on this earth...
"The SkyCycle approach is revolutionary, and has potential applications in cities around the world," developer Space Syntax says.
Hope not. Imagine such a system above our historical European city centres ?
Unthinkable, even barbaric, I would say.

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