Are London’s roads about to get a roof?

It all sounds quite bizarre – but are London’s roads about to get a roof? Following on from a Paris case study, plans are being muted to put roofs on top of leading road systems in the capital, providing more green space and a better living environment in the UKs premier city. The plan involves revolutionising London’s transport network too, as the City groans under an increasingly heavy population.

The proposed plan includes stretches of the A12 in East London and parts of the North and South circular. This would essentially turn core parts of London’s road network into ‘double-decker roads’ where the top portion will be safeguarded for cyclists and pedestrians. Whilst making for a safer environment for all parties, the plan would enable London’s overcrowded roads to be opened up, allowing for better traffic flow.

Alongside this plan, new toll roads could be opened in London, which may include a number of new bridges over the river themes. As part of a radical set of road reforms, the likes of which the UK hasn’t seen since the introduction of the congestion charge, could see drivers charged based on a mileage figure as opposed to a set fee.

The proposal is seen as important at a time when London’s population is swelling. The capitals population could hit 10 million people (15% of the UK’s entire population as of 2013) within the next two decades. With the transport system as a whole creaking, and increasing pressures to boost the green credentials of the city, the Mayor’s office asked the Road Tasks Force to come up with some radical new ideas.

The Road Tasks Force has looked to Paris for inspiration. There, three significant sections of the Périphérique, which acts in a similar way to the North and South Circular in London, have been transformed into covered green spaces. In a city where green spaces are increasingly getting squeezed out in favour of building work, this provides the opportunity to create whole new city gardens.

The Mayor hopes that a lot of the funding required can come from private developers, who would swop out funding the project in return for being granted permission to build nearby.

A big focus for the scheme is to begin to replace driving with greener options, such as cycling. It’s believed that many would-be cyclists are put off using a cycle due to fears of London’s roads. Therefore, introducing safer, segregated cycling areas would help people to engage with the activity in a way that cycling has been embraced in other European Cities. The government also fears for the Tube system, which is relied on so heavily by London’s population as a whole. Yet the Victorian architecture around carries 1 billion people per year, and it is essentially at capacity during peak times. As a network designed to carry a tiny fraction of that number, at a time when the population was significantly smaller then it is in 2013, it is clear that this alone cannot be the solution. Therefore, investment in new transport ideas like the Crossrail is one solution, but it is hoped that Londoners can travel quicker and safer via new pedestrian flyovers.

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