Floating bikeway joins pot of ideas for London cycling

by Alice Davis | 15 Oct 2014

When it comes to how best to cater for cyclists in the UK’s capital, more ideas are being "floated" than ever before. The latest is the Thames Deckway, a 7-mile (11km) stretch of cycle path that would float alongside the banks of London’s famed river.

Thames Deckway is a concept proposed by River Cycleway Consortium, which is led by architect David Nixon and environmental entrepreneur Anna Hill, in conjunction with Arup and David Broughton Architects. Running from Battersea to Canary Wharf, the waterside cycle path would decrease journey times by up to 30 minutes, the consortium predicted.

One of the downsides of the seven miles of floating decking, which would potentially have to carry thousands of commuting cyclists, would be its prohibitive costs. At an estimated £600 million (€755m, US$955m), the consortium suggested off-setting the costs by charging cyclists £1.50 (€1.80, US$2.40) per journey. A single Tube journey, by comparison, is currently £4.70 (€5.90, US$7.50).

German Dector-Vega, London director for sustainable transport charity Sustrans, expressed concerns about the price tag. "It’s exciting to see innovation and new ideas focused so much on cycling, perhaps for the first time in our generation," he told Leisure Architecture. "However, despite being well intentioned, this Deckway scheme wouldn’t provide good value for money."

"The £600 million would be much better spent on high quality routes that help people make local and longer distance journeys, including better links across the river such as the Thames Cycle Bridge proposed for Canary Wharf to Rotherhithe," Dector-Vega said. "Cycle infrastructure needs to join up to give people real travel choices; without good access routes high profile flagship ideas such as these are not feasible."

Keeping cyclists safe on the roads has become an increasingly important matter as the number of commuters and leisure riders taking to two wheels has soared in recent years, reaching 582,000 cycle trips per day in 2012 according to Transport for London (TfL) figures. That figure signifies an 80.1 per cent increase in daily cycle trips since 2002.

However, cycling tends to be a contentious topic for some Londoners. The Thames Deckway has already received criticism from the Port of London Authority, who told The Wharf newspaper: "An idea like this needs to take account of the practical realities of this fast flowing and very busy tidal river … The placing of such a structure would reduce navigable space, increase congestion and present a serious risk of collision."

A spokesman for the consortium responded: "London needs to think outside the box of conventional solutions to solve its deep-seated traffic and pollution problems. The Thames offers vast, untapped potential to ease and improve London's infrastructure problems. What is needed is imagination to unleash it."

With few off-road options, the majority of cyclists – and motorists – believe a separate avenue for bicycle riders would be speedier and safer for all. London Mayor Boris Johnson is planning a cross-city route that’s segregated from traffic – a “super highway” or “Cross-rail” for bikes – that runs from north to south and another from east to west.

Foster and Partner’s plans for a progressive SkyCycle network, which would cover more than 130 miles, has also sparked discussion.

Johnson’s 21-mile cycle path plan – which has received public support from companies like RBS, Orange and Unilever, though criticism from other quarters that it will cause congestion – might not be as futuristic or glamorous as those that float on water or soar above the ground, but might prove finally to be easier, cheaper, more practical and more feasible to build.

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of London, three boroughs have been given money to persuade them to become “mini-Hollands” in a bid to revolutionise residents' cycling habits.

When it comes to how best to cater for cyclists in the UK’s capital, more ideas are being "floated" than ever before. The latest is the Thames Deckway, a 7-mile (11km) stretch of cycle path that would float alongside the banks of London’s famed river. Thames Deckway is a concept proposed by River Cycleway Consortium, which is led by architect David Nixon and environmental entrepreneur Anna Hill, in conjunction with
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The proposed floating bikeway would take cyclists past famous London landmarks like City Hall and the Shard / Shutterstock
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