They’re expensive, they’re impractical, they’re not wanted by the target audience but still urban designers like to think cyclists would prefer to ride on elevated urban "veloways" rather than ride at street level (you know, where all the shops and bars are situated). The latest city to toy with the idea – perhaps fleetingly – is Melbourne.
"A radical plan for a AU$100 million ‘sky bike’ super highway for Melbourne CBD cyclists is being examined by the government’s chief infrastructure adviser," reports The Age.
The idea might be radical but it’s far from new. There was a (failed) elevated cycleway partially built in California in the 1890s, and architect Sir Norman Foster has been trying to encourage London to build one for the last few years.
However, Infrastructure Victoria is so taken with the idea it has commissioned drawings and wants to bring the concept to life, predicting that making cyclists ride up ramps and away from the street would cut traffic congestion, freeing up space for public transport. And cars, of course. Motorists and bus passengers would be able to access shops and bars, cyclists will be up there in the sky.
"The provision of bicycle highways, especially if they are physically or grade separated, is likely to encourage new cycling trips by cyclists of varying ability and reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities related to crashes," says Infrastructure Victoria. True, so build them at street level, where people on bikes want to go, not in the air where people don’t want to go.
In fact, it’s likely this is what Infrastructure Victoria’s "Plan Melbourne" strategy will eventually recommend but it looks good to be "thinking outside of the box".
Sensibly, the roads minister for the State government appears to have already rejected the "elevated veloways" ideas, saying "while IV (Infrastructure Victoria) looks at options, we’re focused on our priorities," and those priorities involve building street-level cycle infrastructure.
Copenhagen has elevated cycleways – such as the Cykelslangen, or Cycle Snake – but this is a bridge not a method of getting cyclists away from the streets.