Cities around the world that constantly struggle with traffic congestion and air pollution are always looking for ways to reduce both. In some cities, there are rules in place that keep cars and trucks off certain roads. Moreover, people are strongly encouraged to walk or bike to school or work.
And, biking to work should be a great idea. Except many bicyclists find themselves in multiple near misses with buses, cars and trucks driving ever so close. In addition to trying to arrive to work in one piece, arriving as a sweaty mess is also not very appealing.
Germany now plans to take stronger measures to keep the country’s bicyclists safe and to make long-distance commutes easier to navigate. In late December, Germany opened a three-mile stretch of the Radschnellweg, a new bike expressway.
Builders and pavers constructed the Radschnellweg as a “dedicated multi-lane highway for two-wheeled transport” to provide bicyclists with an alternative to dodging fierce traffic on main roads. The bike lanes are approximately 13 feet wide and are lit in the evening and at night. In the winter, plows will clear the bike highway just like any motor vehicle roadway.
A representative of the regional development firm RVR, Martin Toennes, said that almost two million people live within one mile of the Radschnellweg. And, one of RVR’s studies found that the bike expressway has the potential to result in 50,000 fewer cars daily on the region’s roads.
Given the large amount of carbon dioxide that is pumped into the atmosphere by just one passenger vehicle’s exhaust pipe, a significant reduction of car usage in Germany could noticeably reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Currently, the Radschnellweg primarily runs alongside out-of-use train tracks. It will eventually expand to about 62 miles long and will connect four universities and 10 cities throughout the Ruhr district in northern Germany.
The planned expansion does have some hiccups, however. Since local governments typically build and maintain their own bike routes, there is the hotly contested question of who will pay for the expansion’s $200 million price tag.
For the first segment of the bike expressway, the European Union paid for half of the cost and RVR and the German government split the other half. Toennes noted that, “Without [state] support, the project would have no chance.”
As a result, some politicians suggest that the roadway could be funded by selling advertising space in the form of billboards.