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Will London Transform Disused Train Tunnels Into Cycle Highways?

biking in london

Rendering via Gensler

I typically don’t cover news on Jessie on a Journey unless I find it really interesting. This morning on The Guardian I read about a proposed project in London to transform the city’s disused train tunnels into cycle highways accessible via metro. Bike rental stations would sit at the beginning of each cycling stretch.

Called the “London Underline,” the project is the brainchild of a design firm called Gensler, created in the hopes of not only getting people to be more active and recycling unused space, but also curbing London’s above-ground traffic congestion. In theory this may work, but as The Guardian notes it may not be practical.

Says writer Feargus O’Sullivan, “Personally, if I were trying to find a congestion-free way to reach the South Bank from Bloomsbury, I wouldn’t rent a Boris bike at platform level in Holborn station, cycle it five-odd minutes down a tunnel, dock it again and take a lift up to ground level, then rent another Boris bike only to be forced to wheel it across a bridge.”

biking in london

Proposed underground cycleway map

Moreover, Treehugger Lloyd Alter writes the London Underline may not actually be in a cyclist’s best interests, as the tunnels will take them away from the beauty, history and culture of the city. He notes, “London streets are crowded, no question. Sometimes it’s cold and rainy and dark. But you want people and bikes on the surface where the action is. Because streets are for people.”

Despite winning “best concept” at the London Planning Awards last week, the project is facing a lot of controversy. I have to agree my favorite part about being a cyclist myself is getting to feel the beat of a city when I’m riding. Being pushed underground would take that away. That being said, it could be a fun way to see London from two different perspectives, although I think after doing this one time it might get old.

I’m all about recycling spaces, and if they can truly make this an extensive network underneath London — something that’s still not 100% definite — I could possibly see the merits, especially in terms of speed. I also think if they can give the tunnels some creative flare with street (subway) art, exhibits and maybe some curated artisan sellers and local performers depending on space, it could be an attraction in itself.

Do you enjoy biking in London? What are your thoughts on the London Underline project?

Also Check Out:

Colombia Travel: Exploring Bogota By Bike

Transportation Stories: Notes On Being A NYC Bike Commuter

Creating An Urban Cycling Culture: Interview With Urban Mobility Expert Mikael Colville-Andersen

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2 Comments

  1. CyclistPro on September 20, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Sounds like great idea but it could be scary to cycle through these tunnels.

  2. Jeff Whyte on September 12, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    I hadn’t heard this one before. Interesting concept but likely only useful for the serious cycle commuters. At the end of the day, anyting that increases the ability to move people around london probably is a good thing.

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