Subterranean cycleway wins best conceptual project at the London Planning Awards

The design firm Gensler has won a prestigious planning award with their ‘London Underline’ concept, an idea to put cycle and pedestrian highways in the old disused underground tunnels under the city. 

 The plan was put forward to show how cyclists and pedestrians could be separated safely from the ever increasing road traffic by using the surplus infrastructure already beneath the ground.  With London’s population expected to rise to 10 million by 2029 and cyclist numbers quadruple, it is clear that the city has to do something to prepare to future needs.

The London Underline consists of dual tunnels regenerated from the Underground’s defunct tunnels to create parallel pedestrian and cycle paths.  What makes these plans particularly clever is how self sustaining the technology is.  The clever design includes a carbon neutral idea by using kinetic paving, which uses friction from pedestrian footfall and cycle tyres to generate electricity to light and heat businesses based in the Underline.  

By allowing cafes and click-and-collect points for online shopping to operate alongside the pathways, it will help pay for itself through rent and advertising and also help generate a safe and comfortable underground community spirit. 

The London Underline would have Boris Bikes situated near the entrance of the tunnels either above or below ground and these could be accessed via lift or the existing tube stations.  Current tunnels of interest include the defunct branch of the Piccadilly Line, from Holborn to the abandoned Aldwych station, Green Park to Charing Cross and even a stretch of vacant tunnel at Goodge Street and Stockwell.

 Gensler’s co-director Ian Mulcahey says opening the Underline for business will help fund the project:

‘Could you turn that [kinetic] power into art pieces or advertising opportunities? Could you tie it all together, perhaps with sponsorship and naming rights, so that it’s a self-funding exercise? You’re in the Oystercard zone already because it’s connected to the underground, but you could put things in there that help it support itself.

Could this be one of those ideas that actually comes to successful fruition and be the answer to London’s ever worsening congestion problems?  Keep an eye on this one!