Unused subterranean tunnels and spaces could one day serve as London's next cycle and pedestrian paths, as global architecture, design, and planning firm Gensler envisions with its project, The London Underline. As it won the Best Conceptual Award at the respected London Planning Awards on Tuesday (hosted by Mayor Boris Johnson), the concept made the city's newspapers headlines and garnered attention from many.
The terms safe, dry, and sustainable don't conjure notions of cycling in almost any situation, much less in the cosmopolitan supernova that London embodies. Gensler's concept approaches things differently; exhaust fumes are eliminated, thanks to the underground network of tunnels. Power is self-sustained, through a kinetic paving system in where electricity is generated at larger transit stations (namely Charing Cross or Holborn). Commercial interests would contribute to the financial aspect of the project, alleviating the taxpayer's wallet in an already high tax area.
Ian Mulcahey, managing director of Gensler in London, reasoned the underground approach in a press release earlier this week, citing overcrowding and already-existing tunnels as logical factors: "Now London has reached the highest level of population in its history, we need to think creatively about how to maximize the potential of our infrastructure. The adaptation of surplus and underutilized tube and rail tunnels could provide a quick and simple addition to our infrastructure network."
Plans for newer, safer, and greener cycling paths in London have been a much debated topic in recent years, including Foster + Partners' Skycycle, a proposed network of elevated bicycle paths that would accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour, per route.