Germany moves forward with bicycle highway

Germany has just opened the first five kilometres of a 100-kilometre bicycle highway. The bicycle-only route will connect 10 cities and four universities in the Ruhr region in the western part of the country.

A country known for its super fast highways has just opened a highway of a different type: one exclusively for bicycles.

Unlike a conventional single-lane bike path – which is usually only separated from traffic by a strip of paint – the new bicycle highway is a separate route altogether. At around four metres wide and featuring overtaking lanes, Germany’s latest highway crosses roads via overpasses and underpasses. It will run mostly along disused railroad tracks to make the most of existing infrastructure, reports AFP.

Seen as an answer for nine-to-five cycling commuters, the bicycle highway will eventually connect 10 western cities, including Duisburg, Bochum and Hamm, and four universities in the densely populated Ruhr industrial region.

With around two million people living within two kilometres of the route, the regional development group RVR predicts that the new track will help take 50,000 cars of the roads every day. Proponents of the project argue that it will help solve urban traffic jams and reduce air pollution.

Bicycle highways are gaining traction in other countries. London approved Europe’s first bicycle highway earlier this year, and other projects are underway in the Netherlands and Denmark, where the idea was first pioneered, according to an article on Inhabitat.

Financing of these projects, however, is less straightforward than the advantages. Some argue that cycling infrastructure should get a proportion of federal transport funding equivalent to the percentage of trips made by bicycle. Others would like to see a private financing model based partly on advertising along the route.

In the case of the Ruhr bicycle highway, financing was shared between RVR, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the European Union.

Image credit: Julian Schüngel, flickr/Creative Commons

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