Sunday, January 3, 2016

Germany Opens Bicycle Superhighway

Intercity travelling by bicycles is about to become a reality in Europe, as Germany opens the first ever superhighway for bicycle-only traffic. The Autobahn is not yet ready —just the first five kilometer of the bicycle highway has opened to the public, but when it’s done it will span over 100 kilometers and connect 10 western cities including Duisburg, Bochum and Hamm and four universities. The highway will run largely along disused railroad tracks in the crumbling Ruhr industrial region, and is hoped to benefit almost two million people who live within two kilometers of the route. These people will be able to use sections of the highway for their daily commutes, avoiding urban traffic jams and air pollution. The new track is predicted to take 50,000 cars off the roads every day.
Bicycle highways are taking shape elsewhere around Europe too, such as in the Netherlands and Denmark, where the idea was first pioneered. The banking centre of Frankfurt is working on a 30-kilometer path south to Darmstadt, while the Bavarian capital of Munich is plotting a 15-kilometer route into its northern suburbs. Nuremberg is already studying the possibility of a track linking four cities. In the capital Berlin, the city administration in early December gave the green light to a feasibility study on connecting the city centre with the southwestern suburb of Zehlendorf.

Germany is already familiar with bicycle lanes, but unlike the ageing single-lane bike paths, where tree roots often create irregular speed bumps, or a lane can abruptly end in a busy intersection, the new superhighways will be a luxurious four meters wide, have overtaking lanes and cross roads via overpasses and underpasses. The paths will be lit and cleared of snow in winter.

Martin Toennes of the development group RVR, is trying to raise 180 million euros ($196 million) so that the entire 100-kilometre route could be completed. Aside from that, he will have to come up with money for maintenance, lighting and snow clearance. "Without (state) support, the project would have no chance," Toennes observed.

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