How a desire to go green influenced inner-city highways

As we strive to make our cities greener, with innovations with solar panel technology and vertical gardens – one major apex in carbon emissions naturally, are our roadways. So how exactly can we revolutionise a system that has been in place since the era of the Romans? 

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One way to innovate the future is, of course, to look up. And the Jetson-inspired 'skyTran' is certainly doing so. 

Styled as a 'hover-monorail', the idea is set to be tested in Israel, as an energy-efficient, space-saving way of moving citizens from A to B, via the space-age looking pods. As the pictures show, the science-fiction feel of the skyTran could take a little getting used to, but the technology behind the design is failsafe. In fact, even NASA has been keeping an eye on this one.

The concept is spawned from the combined hive mind of skyTran Inc. and Israel Aerospace Industries, with the hope of encouraging commuters to use a much greener way of getting around. The trains are capable of holding a potential 12,000 passengers, with two per seat – so best pick your travel buddy wisely...

With a provisional date set to get the skyTran running at the end of 2015, and as beautiful as the pods look, (seen below, hurtling through a hypothetical Los Angeles) how precisely do they work?

The innovation is actually inspired by another; a Chinese invention called Maglev technology. Maglev, a portmanteau of 'Magnetic Levitation', is the clever method of propelling vehicles using magnets rather than, say, wheels. The technique is said to be both faster and energy-friendly.

On the inside, the technology is revolutionary, but don't expect any less on the outside.

The plan for actually catching a skyTran involves ordering it on your smartphone, being picked up, and then soaring off to your destination at speeds you've never quite seen before. Are we finally about to turn into Pod People?


From the skyTran, to the SkyCycle; UK-based designers also getting inspiration from up above. Inspired by the recent flurry of cyclist/road accidents, the idea is set to transform the hustle and bustle of London's streets into a more tranquil atmosphere. Step forward the SkyCycle, a concept described by its makers as: "The next stage of cycling in London". The plan? To keep passionate bike riders up in the skies. 

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The clever conception comes from Exterior Architecture Ltd, an architecture team based in London who want to capitalise on cyclists' safety. The idea has even caught the attention of the TfL and Boris Johnsson himself. The team says, the amount of bike-riders on London roads could soar to over 1.5 million by 2020. 

"The roads in central London and the arterial routes into London are busy enough with cars, vans, trucks, taxis, buses, motorcycles and bicycles – tripling the amount of cyclists in this environment is, to us, a recipe for a lot of tension on the roads and further compromising of cyclist safety. SkyCycle will not replace the roads, it will simply be an alternative option; the roads of London still need massive improvements for cyclist safety."

SkyCycle, set to be a 135 mile-long network running perpendicular to the UK capital's roadways and major train stations, has been in the making for over two years now, but with press attention steadily building, the concept certainly has legs (or wheels, in this case). 

Sir Norman Foster, a cyclist expert involved in the inner-workings of the project, enthused to the Daily Mail on the importance pedal power could have ecologically for the city: 
"SkyCycle is a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city. By using the corridors above the suburban railways, we could create a world-class network of safe, car-free cycle routes that are ideally located for commuters."

Garden Bridge

And it's not just the cyclists that could be radically changing the shape of London's famous skyline. Oddly enough, Garden Bridge, a planned 'floating bridge' to hover over the River Thames, was first conceived in 1998 by Absolutely Fabulous actress Joanna Lumley. 

The plan is to erect a bridge fused together with garden technology to make for a greener environment in the capital. Joined by Thomas Heatherwick, (who also designed the 'cauldron' for the London 2012 Olympics) and engineering team Arup, Lumley and co. have been passionate about the idea for now over a decade, with plans to build in 2017. 

Due to feature in the heart of the city, the magnificent garden infastructure is set to be 360 feet long. 

Thomas Heatherwick told Arup's official website how important such a green-focused sculpture could be for London. 

"With its rich heritage of allotments, gardens, heathland, parks and squares, London is one of the greenest cities in the world. In this context, we are excited to have been selected by TfL to explore the opportunity of a pedestrian river crossing. The idea is simple: to connect north and south London with a garden."

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How would you improve our inner-city highways?


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