The London Underline - brainchild of design firm Gensler - is a simple idea, really: use underutilized and abandoned Tube (subway) lines for safe and fast city biking.
It is such a good idea that Gensler picked up the Best Conceptual Project at the London Planning Awards this week.
Included in the concept of long underground pedestrian and cyclie paths is Pavegen, a kinetic energy system that turns footsteps into electricity. Gensler included Pavegen in the project after critics said the project was too expensive.
There are pre-existing tunnels including part of the subway's Piccadilly Line, and an unused part of the Jubilee Line running from Green Park to Charing Cross. Remnants of WWII plans to connect deep bomb shelters could also be added to the plans.
There could of course, be problems with underground cycle paths - safety, for one. While it may be safer for people biking and walking to be away from swiftly moving traffic on fast arterials, there's a certain vulnerability to being enclosed in long tunnels. In addition, air quality in underground tunnels may not be the best.
But London's growing population makes pressure on transport infrastructure particularly acute. The city is expected to grow an additional 2 million people in the next dozen years.
According to Gensler designer Trevor To:
“Gensler’s proposal brings back an ignored part of the city through the collective efforts of its citizens. By harnessing the kinetic energy of every one’s footsteps, a whole new urban space is unlocked underneath the city. 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 also proposed that the Underline could be a great new expanse of space for retail.
Along with the proposed cycling superhighway London is looking at, the tunnels could make cycling the cleanest, fastest, driest (!) and possibly even the most pleasant and self-sustaining way to get around the city.