Lord Norman Foster, the architect who designed London’s Gherkin tower, has proposed a network of elevated bike paths hoisted above railway lines, allowing you to zip through London liberated from the roads.

Titled ‘SkyCycle,’ the cycling routes would follow London’s existing suburban rail services for over 136 miles, allowing cyclists to traverse the city without encountering cars or pedestrians.

“I believe that cities where you can walk or cycle rather than drive are more congenial places in which to live,” said Foster, who shares cycling as one of his great passions, particularly with friends.

“SkyCycle is a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city. By using the corridors above the suburban railways, we could create a world-class network of safe, car free cycle routes that are ideally located for commuters.”

SkyCycle would consist of a number of routes, most of which would connect with other lines at points. Each route would be able to accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour. The network as a whole would serve almost six million people, half of whom live and work within 10 minutes of one of its 200 entrances. As the majority of London’s rail network was created in the steam era, the tracks follow the path of least resistance, avoiding steep gradients and making them ideal routes for cycling.

By the Numbers

  • 10 mph – average cycle speed in London
  • 15 mph – estimated speed after SkyCycle
  • 20 feet wide decks
  • 20 years to build
  • 29 minutes less journey time
  • 135 miles over existing railway services
  • 12,000 cyclists per hour
  • 5.8 million people live close to proposed route
  • £220 million to build first four-mile stretch

Dedicated cycling roads aren’t new

The bike-loving Danes went all-out with an 11-mile road specifically for riding and commuting. The road, built in 2012, even has air pumps along the way.

Reminiscent of the California Cycleway


The California Cycleway, dreamt up in the 1890s, was never completed after the automobile industry took off. Photograph: Cycle Infrastructure/nai010

The project is reminiscent of the California Cycleway, dreamt up in the 1890s, which planned to connect Los Angeles and Pasadena with a very similar elevated cycle path. Despite a partial opening in 1900, the Cycleway was never completed, as commuters flocked to take the Pacific Electric Railway instead.

Cited benefits of the plan, aside from reducing cycle collisions with cars, include raising historically low values of properties situated by the railways, the possibility of on-network “cycling high streets” with shops and cafés, and the “integration of automated goods delivery networks.” For now, though, the SkyCycle design team is trying to raise money for a feasibility study that includes a four-mile route between Stratford and the Liverpool Street Station. That section alone is estimated to cost £220 million. If it works out, Foster believes SkyCycle could be a reality within two decades.