Leave it to Germany to build a bicycle autobahn that connect 10 cities within its borders. The goal? To take some 50,000 vehicles off the actual highways and make commuting by bike a much easier — and safer — proposition.
The idea was sparked six years ago when a cultural project caused the one-day closure of the road between Duisburg and Dortmund and more than three million people flooded the road on bikes, skates, and feet. Last December, Germany’s first stretch of bike highway opened for business between Mülheim an der Ruhr and Essen. Eventualy, the Radschnellweg will link 10 cities and four universities with 62 miles of bike highway.
The bikeways — and parallel pedestrian paths — are completely separated from the vehicle lanes, with a 13-foot width, tunnels, lights, and snow clearing because safety and accessibility issues are two of the biggest obstacles to biking. Coupled with Europe’s blossoming affection for electric bikes and Germany’s limited proximity between cities, the Radschnellweg stand to attract a new wave of pedal-powered commuters. Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, and Nuremberg are also undertaking bike-related feasibility studies in order to curb traffic and pollution in those urban areas.
Of course, the Germans are only the latest to enter the bike highway fray. The Netherlands started building their 20-strong network of bikeways 10 years ago and continue to expand it, while Denmark focused their efforts on Copenhagen. Norway will soon be getting in on the action too with bikeways connecting nine cities.