TRACKING THE FUTURE OF CITIES
Half a billion pounds sterling (that’s almost $1 billion US) for a floating cycle path? It’s only on the drawing board, but that’s the projected cost of the eight-mile “Thames Deckway” being proposed for a stretch of London’s Thames river. It would link Canary Warf (a high-rise business district) in the east with Battersea (a capital-intensive condo neighbourhood) in the west, with entry points along the way.
According to the duo who designed this novel idea (designer Anna Hill and architect David Nixon of River Cycleway Consortium) cyclists would be charged a flat rate of £1.50 to use the pathway, with ramps situated at intervals to access streets along with a series of stopping points and refreshment kiosks. The floating cycle path, they claim, is their way of “thinking outside the box” in seeking to solve London’s traffic and pollution problems.
Now as nifty as this idea may seem upon first glance, it’s actually objectionable on a number of grounds. The path would naturally satisfy those who want to segregate cyclists from other forms of transport, but limiting car traffic from already built roads to make room for bikes would actually be a much more cost-effective and efficient way of moving people and improving the environment. There’s little reason to believe, however, that the city of London is interested in limiting its impressive revenues from the London congestion charge, which rakes in more than £100 million annually for the city.
Then there’s question of sheer cost: £600 million. Is this in any way justifiable, given that most of London’s residents will live too far to actually use it for meaningful transport to and from work? A large number of the users will likely consist of upper-middle class yuppies from condo-land in Battersea biking to their “city” finance jobs in Canary Warf. Hardly a democratic allocation of tax-payer funds, and I could imagine much more equitable uses of half a billion pounds that could benefit immensely more people.
A well-meaning idea perhaps, but this costly, floating white elephant would appear little more than a vanity project that might enhance the image of London as an innovator but do little to improve the sustainability of the city nor provide any meaningful or inspiring beacon of change in a place that is hell-bent on competitive, neo-liberal capitalism and consumerist frenzy.
A more sustainable and cost-effective suggestion: implement monthly car-free days across major thoroughfares and bridges and return (if only momentarily) the city back to the people and to cyclists.