Could SkyCycle ever work? History says not

The SkyCycle – a radical and expensive set of aerial cycleways for London from Exterior Architecure and Foster + Partners – sounds wonderful but London (and Pasadena, California) has been here before. The ‘pedways’ were aerial walkways around London but were never planned as a network so failed dismally as shown by this thought-provoking documentary, ‘The Pedway: Elevating London’.

The 37-minute film explores the largely abandoned aerial walkways that were built during the post-war redevelopment in the City of London. The attempt to build a network of elevated walkways through the city was ambitious but doomed to failure for very human reasons: people like the street and want to get places quickly and efficiently. ‘The Pedway: Elevating London’ features interviews with professor of town planning Michael Hebbert, architecture critic Jonathan Glancey, city planning officer Peter Wynne Rees and writer Nicholas Rudd-Jones, author of ‘Pathways’. The film shows why the ‘Pedway’ scheme was unsuccessful and captures the remains that, almost unknown to the public, still haunt the square mile. It’s very much worth watching, and there’s also an article about the ‘pedways’ by Hebbert from an American planning journal, first published in 2003.

If the SkyWay were to work for cyclists, the ‘Pedway’ documentary shows that, to have even a slim chance of working, the whole network must be built at once, must have multiple entry and exit points, must go where people want to go and must be the shortest distances between points. ‘Vertical segregation’ suggests that cyclists would have to go on long, ramped detours to access a SkyWay. ‘The Pedway: Elevating London’ shows that this doesn’t work in British cities. Watch it below or in higher resolution on Vimeo.com.

The Pedway: Elevating London (Documentary) from Chris Bevan Lee on Vimeo.

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