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A groundbreaking composite cycle expressway concept

News International-French

6 Jun 2011

Building elevated cycle expressways using FRP composite materials could enable cycling to become a central aspect of transport solutions for British cities over the coming decades. Cycling would not only be the fastest way to get about, but also one of the cheapest, healthiest, safest and most environmentally friendly while on the expressway.

(Published on August-September 2005 – JEC Magazine #19)






White Young Green (consultants to the built, natural and social environment), Fitzpatrick plc (a multidisciplinary construction organisation), and The Scyways Consortium have developed an innovative cycle expressway concept that addresses a basic problem, i.e. it is not generally possible to widen roads in cities to create additional space for cycles. The idea of creating an additional deck over existing carriageways is a concept which has not been generally explored. There are significant practical limitations to applying the concept for motor vehicles, but it is an entirely feasible option for lightweight cycles.



Advantages of using FRP:

  • Lightweight – ease of transportation and installation, low foundation loading
  • Durability, corrosion resistance, long life
  • Aesthetics – ability to mould complex shapes
  • Ability to produce long spans, minimising footprint on the ground
  • Economy, especially considering through-life costing


A modular structure

The expressway would be constructed in modular units in the factory, allowing production costs to be reduced, manufacturing tolerances to be tight and – a crucial point – to ensure the structure can be erected in the minimum possible timeframe and with the minimum disruption to traffic flows and to the area in general. These modular units could be transported to the route and slotted onto pre-positioned supports.


The use of fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) composite materials is being investigated for the complete structure of the cycle expressway, except for the foundations and columns. Such materials would provide a very lightweight solution, fully factory finished, and enable rapid installations.


FRP composites have been accepted by the Highways Agency for use on structures such as bridges and motorway gantries. Their incredible durability provides significant savings in through-life costing by reducing maintenance requirements to a minimum.


The envisaged structure will have the following features:

  • open to the sky with a superstructure supported or cantilevered from single columns,
  • centrally supported at a height of approximately 5.7m down the central reservation of dual carriageway, where available,
  • cantilevered at a height of approximately 2.5m over and from the edge of pavements where circumstances permit, e.g. alongside sports stadia, under bridges,
  • cantilevered at a height of approximately 5.7 m from the edge of the pavement over carriageways, and crossing side road intersections, crossroads and roundabouts at this same height,
  • access at start and finish and major intersections where space permits, by means of ramps; maximum gradient of 1 in 3 with side ramps for wheeling cycles up and down.