Sustrans’ Thames cycle bridge comes a step closer

Structure will not be in place before 2012

Sustrans’ plans for the first major purpose-built, dedicated cycling and pedestrian bridge over the Thames have just received a boost in the form of a report detailing exactly how it could happen. If the bridge goes ahead it would be the longest span raising cycle and pedestrian bridge in the world.


The study, funded by Transport for London (TfL) was produced by bridge engineers and designers Ramboll Whitbybird. The initial idea was mooted just over two years ago on the back of the announcement that London was to host the 2012 Olympics. The new report looks in much more detail at potential sites, navigational constraints, design possibilities and likely costs.

According to the report the ideal location for the Rotherhithe-CanaryWharf Bridge is  between Durand’s Wharf, a park on the Southwark bank, and Westferry Road. This proposed new location takes into account the requirements of shipping on the Thames – the planned lift bridge would be able to raise itself to varying heights, depending on the nature of the craft passing underneath, thereby minimizing delay to cyclists and pedestrians. It will also link to public transport networks on both sides of the river. The report puts the cost of the bridge at around £65 million.  

The bridge would form part of a wider package cycling plans designed to address the capital’s transport needs as part of the 2012 Olympic Games legacy. It would give more direct access for thousands of people from south of the River Thames to the Olympic Park, Canary Wharf and the rest of the City and Thames Gateway (an area due for massive development over coming years). 

Sadly for London cyclists, whilst the bridge was originally hoped to be ready for use for the 2012 Olympics and to be funded in part by the Olympic Delivery Authority, it appears neither will now be the case. The current cycle-possible crossings of the Thames in the immediate area are the Greenwich Foot Tunnel – where cyclists must dismount and also contend with steps – and Rotherhithe Tunnel, which the report notes is little-used by cyclists and pedestrians due to a lack of ventilation and the squeezing together of motorized and non-motorised traffic.    

Carl Pittam, Sustrans’ Director for London said: “This study is crucial as it tells us that the bridge is feasible, the location is right and puts a real figure against its cost. The next step will be a detailed analysis of the potential numbers of users of the bridge. We will continue to work with TfL and the relevant Boroughs (Southwark and Tower Hamlets) to ensure that the process continues to run smoothly.”

One potential sticking point appears to be the question of precisely where such a large amount of money is to come from. Sustrans have publicly acknowledged TfL’s generosity in funding the recent feasibility study, however, a TfL spokesperson told Bikeradar that whilst TfL is broadly in support of the bridge, it is simply beyond the organisation’s current spending plans as the £65 million envisaged to complete the project is almost the amount it spent in the last financial year on all walking and cycling projects. 


“Transport for London funded a Sustrans feasibility study for their proposed walking and cycling bridge across the Thames. We are continuing to work with Sustrans to develop a business case for the bridge and will review the results of this once available,” they added.