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Would you pay to use this floating bicycle expressway?

Alia Parker's picture
An artist's impression of the 8 mile Thames Deckway, which would run from Battersea to Greenwhich. Cycle Traveller

It's the most ambitious bicycle infrastructure project ever envisaged: a floating cycle and pedestrian way curving its way down London's Thames River. But engineering feats aside, what makes the proposal most remarkable is that it will be fully funded and built without government assistance – its private investors believe cyclists are prepared to pay to use a safe, fast and green cycling expressway.

As congestion continues to worsen in England's capital, the private company behind the project, River Cycle Consortium, says more cycling infrastructure is needed to improve access to the city and a major part of the solution lies in its Thames Deckway – eight miles (almost 13km) of cycling through the heart of London with no vehicles and no traffic lights.

“Though cyclists now account for 24% of central London commuter traffic and daily cycle trips have now passed 600,000 a day, cycling and being a pedestrian for most Londoners can be a hazardous and stressful experience,” say the masterminds behind the vision.

They said 13 cyclists and 65 pedestrians were killed on London's roads in 2014.

Solar power on The Thames Deckway, London. Cycle Traveller

Faster and safer

It is estimated that The Thames Deckway – a stretch of floating pontoons, anchored to the river bed, allowing the deck to rise and fall in step with the tidal river – would allow an adult of average fitness to cycle the Deckway's full length from Battersea Bridge to Greenwich Pier in 34 minutes.

Further to the safety and convenience argument for improved cycling access into the heart of London are environmental concerns. The consortium says 50% of London's air pollution is generated by vehicles, with levels of nitrogen dioxide in the city's air breaching European Union standards for the past five years.

River Cycle Consortium says safer and greener cycling and pedestrian access into the city centre is not only necessary but in high demand, making it economically viable for a private company to enter the domain of bicycle infrastructure development.

Thames Deckway infographic showing the safety and environmental arguments for better bicycle infrastructure. Cycle Traveller

Cost estimates

The group plans to build the estimated £600 million (about AUD$1.3 billion) Deckway without any government assistance, meaning non-cyclists cannot complain about footing the bill.

As with anything privately funded, however, The Thames Deckway will need to generate revenue, which is why cyclists and pedestrians using the expressway will pay a flat fee of £1.50 (about AUD$3.25) per ride, which they can transact using a card to tap on and off.

To guage public support for the Deckway and to fund a feasibility study into the development, River Cycle Consortium is seeking to raise £175,000 (about AUD$376,000) via a crowdfunding campaign on Indigogo. A major part of the Indigogo campaign is to raise awareness of the project and to rally the public behind its cause.

“In the case of the Thames Deckway, public interest will be vital to help it through the political and environmental headwinds it will encounter before it gets built,” the consortium says.

If all goes to plan and the project is able to overcome the challenges ahead, including engineering design and development permissions, The Thames Deckway could be in operation by 2023.

Your say

What do you think of privately-funded cycling infrastructure? Would you pay to use a bicycle expressway?


don't know about that, the graphic looks horrendous, but the idea has merit.

athousandmilesrtw's picture

This looks like a very forward thinking idea. I could get behind something like this. If they're suggesting a card to tap on and off, I wonder if it would make sense to tie it into the Oyster Card (or appropriate successor). £1.50 sounds quite reasonable.

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