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Published on October 21st, 2014 | by Cynthia Shahan


Floating Cycleway On The Thames: Another Disconnected Idea

October 21st, 2014 by  

In London, commuters need fair and decent bicycle infrastructure throughout the city. Recently, another questionable idea that probably falls short of these needs appeared. It looks exciting, but it is counter to basic bicycling needs — infrastructure that will help get a cyclist to work and elsewhere (stores, friends’ homes, etc).

Floating Cycleway On The Thames: Another Disconnected Idea

Image Credit: CityLab — River Cycleway Consortium

This outlandish but impractical idea I’m referring to is the idea of a floating cycleway on the Thames River (put together by a group called the River Cycleway Consortium, London). The idea is an even worse one, according to CityLab, than the one that came before it. This river ride is disconnected from residential neighborhoods, while the previous idea was a bicycle highway high over city streets.

TreeHugger shares a response to the last idea, and how disconnected it was from the real needs of commuters in the city, from Mikael Colville-Andersen (a global expert on bicycle planning and overall city planning):

Ideas like these are city killers. Removing great numbers of citizens who could be cycling down city streets past shops and cafés on their way to work or school and placing them on a shelf, far away from everything else. All this in a city that is so far behind in reestablishing cycling as transport that it’s embarrassing. With most of the population already whining about bicycles on streets, sticking them up in the air, out of the way, is hardly going to help returning bicycles to the urban fabric of the city.

CityLab calls this new concept hilarious and insulting. There’s a flat rate of £1.50 to use the pathway. The total cost of  the floating cycle path on the Thames is said to be £600 million. As it will sport refreshment kiosks at access streets. One thinks this sounds more like a recreational project for the elite. It would be especially sad if such a large amount of money were spent to create a bike path that is disconnected from the needs of actual commuters and so limited in usefulness.

The key, as CityLab points out, is the expenditure of so much money. What London needs and could create with that same money is a more useful network of protected cycle lanes for streets, improving the currently weak or problematic cycle routes. This Thames project just connects two business centers to each other. There is much more need that these centers be connected to residential districts. So many Londoners want to use their bikes to commute.

Regarding the proposal of such costly and unhelpful ideas to a city struggling as City Lab has one more statement worth quoting: “The proposal isn’t just wrong. It’s a whole club sandwich of wrongness, made of delectable layers of stupid.”

Check out TreeHugger‘s account of the story for more on the down side of this proposal. It shares a review of all the plans that have been on the table and nixed as well as a few that make sense.


What is important to consider is when a city does “get it right,” as in the story of Copenhagen. On such lines, the London Evening Standard has a story on something more practical in the works — a highway of new cycling infrastructure with segregated lanes bisecting the city. However, there is resistance to this venture from a lobby of motorists. Projects such as the Thames River Path and the sky cycle nixed before have a wide vacancy of vision, but that’s largely a result of their lack of practicality and usefulness.

Concerns for all of us improve with good bicycle planning. Good planning is holistic planning that benefits all of society. As a recent story from Planetsave on a WHO Tool  that calculates the health savings of bicycle & pedestrian infrastructure explains: whether you bicycle or not, infrastructure supports good societal/public health. (Check out the tool from the World Health Organization (WHO) to calculate those savings.)

Improvements can be made in city infrastructure without huge costs. There are many innovative ideas for supplemental bike lanes available these days at lower costs. Some can elevate, separate, and create a bit more definition for a street that autos and bicycles share. You can also easily and cheaply test out an idea using Copenhagenize Flow, essentially grown-up versions of LEGO blocks used for constructing bike lanes rapidly and efficiently. Just don’t put them on a pointless path in the middle of the river!

Related Stories:

Bicycle Infrastructure Policy Needs To Change To Increase Ridership, Improve Public Health (Harvard Study & My Own)

San Francisco Improves Bicycle Infrastructure

Lego-Like, Elegant Bike Lanes That Snap Together

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About the Author

is a Mother, an Organic Farmer, Licensed Acupuncturist, Anthropology Studies, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.

  • Steven F

    Most bicycle car accidents occur at road intersections or at the entrances to parking lots. A bicycle path that goes over or under a road and doesn’t intersect a parking lot entrance would be a lot safer than bike path along a road. I have seen a number of bike paths along rivers and they are almost always popular with walker,joggers, and bicyclist.

    The only thing I find outlandish is the that they propose floating it on the river. It would be a lot cheaper to put it on the river bank. Also it would not interfere with ships on the river. The only plus I can see for floating iit on the river is that you would get better views of the city.

  • beernotwar

    I tend to think that this could encourage people to cycle. People want to know they’ll be safe and a completely separate pathway like this one provides a clear safety advantage. It also should allow fast travel since there are no cross streets. As long as the path permits easy access to destinations people want to get to and from it should be a success. This is no different than a freeway for cars that has no attractions on it, but provides a quick way to get between destinations. Bikes need those, too.

  • anon-coward-57.3

    I’m not entirely convinced it’s that bad. If you added links to city streets every 4 blocks or so I think this would be a very good thing for rapid transit via bicycle. Certainly safer that the streets.

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