A London architectural firm may be giving new meaning to “protected bike lanes” with a concept that envisions turning abandoned subway tunnels into sustainable, shared passages for pedestrians and cyclists.
Like the High Line in New York City, the concept, called the London Underline, and proposed by the firm Gensler, imagines a thoroughfare reclaimed from abandoned space. In this case, it’s a series of subway tunnels and stations that have been retired and are no longer in use.
It is among a number of creative approaches planned or proposed to help relieve pressure that population growth has placed on transportation infrastructure. Mayor Boris Johnson recently signed off on a $240 million segregated cross-rail cycle superhighway through central London. And, at the other end of the subterranean spectrum, architect Sir Norman Foster earlier proposed a network of bike lanes, known as SkyCycle, that would be suspended above London’s commuter rail lines.
As conceived, Gensler’s plan for the Underline would benefit Londoners and also visitors to the city in multiple ways. The underground network would provide safe and efficient passage for people on foot and on bicycles beneath the busy streets of central London, re-purposing existing space. In addition to their transportation function, the passages could serve as venues for pop-up shops, cafes and cultural events. Finally, the tunnels would be paved with a special surface known as kinetic tile that converts energy from footsteps into electrical power
“This self-sustaining approach to urban infrastructure is key to a carbon neutral community, and London could lead the world once again in merging tradition with innovation to create a better future,” Gensler designer Trevor To told Dezeen.
The proposal for this subterranean transit conduit last week won the London Planning Award for Best Conceptual Project.