Germany is constructing the worlds biggest bicycle autobahn to connect 10 cities and remove 50,000 automobiles from the road every day. With the popularity of e-bikes growing too, is Europe about to see a new era of long-distance cycle commuting?
In 2010, when the motorway between the German the two cities of Duisburg and Dortmund was closed as part of a cultural project, three million people walked, skated or cycled along the road. For one day merely it had been transformed into a gigantic city boulevard.
Spatial planner Martin Tnnes took the opportunity to cycle from Essen to Dortmund. There were so many people that, for the first time in my life, I experienced a bicycle traffic jam! he recalls. But that was when we started thinking about build a highway for motorcycles through the Ruhr Area. When we saw this mass of people cycling down the motorway, we understood there was a real demand.
Five years later, in December 2015, the first Radschnellweg ( bicycle highway) in Germany was opened, between the western the two cities of Mlheim an der Ruhr and Essen. It is just the first stretch of what is going to be the biggest bicycle freeway in the world: 62 -miles long, connecting 10 cities and four universities.
When complete, the network will remove a staggering 50,000 cars from the road each day with an associated daily reduction of 16,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions according to the Regional Assocation Ruhr, where Tnnes is head of planning.
This new bicycle highway is very different from the narrow, painted strips which cyclists have to make do with in German cities, often risking crashes with motorised traffic. It is fully segregated from automobiles, a comfortable 13 -ft wide, and equipped with flyovers and passageways to avoid intersections( a footpath runs parallel to it ). It is also fully lit, and will be cleared of snow in winter.
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