Friday Fun: Futuristic designs make for awesome bicycle infrastructure
The Hovenring provides safe cycling infrastructure for the rising number of cyclists in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Photo by Earthblog/Flickr.

The Hovenring provides safe cycling infrastructure for the rising number of cyclists in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Photo by Earthblog/Flickr.

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

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.

The Skycycle

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, and have a great (and safe) Friday.

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  • Dario Hidalgo

    Rodrigo Díaz @pedestre wrote a very interesting analysis of the good, bad and ugly of elevated bikeways “Norman Foster’s Bikeways in the Air” http://ciudadpedestre.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/las-bicicletas-en-el-aire-de-norman-foster/ I think they “look cool” (the civil engineer in me), but agree with Rodrigo that normal bikeways on the street are much better (simpler, cost effective, easier to use). Still I really like the idea to have these facilities for people, not cars

  • WBF

    Yes, removing cyclist from the road entirely would be incredible for bikers and would surely enhance mobility and safety, however, that’s a conscious decision for each city to make to spend what some may seem an exorbitant amount of money, up to 12 billion! But as a biker I’d like to at least see cities incorporate separation between drivers and bikers where it is obvious for safety, like huge intersections. That would be a practical start