Munich, Germany, is planning to beat its traffic problem through building a super highway system for cyclists that will connect employment centers, malls, universities and ultimately other cities.
City authorities have proposed building a network of 14 two-way bicycle paths for the city’s avid cyclists. The ambitious bicycle track would spread out to over 400 square miles and would not feature any crossroads, traffic lights or oncoming traffic.
Negotiating through Munich with a bicycle can be troublesome. The sidewalks are often narrow, uneven, and crammed, requiring cyclists to hop onto busy roads into oncoming traffic just to overtake. According Birgit Kastrop, an urban planner working on the track, “We need a new form of infrastructure.”
The track, popularly called the Radschnellverbindungen, will do for bikes what highways offer cars; the efficiency of broad lanes and the accessibility of distant cities.
The popularity of cycling as a means of transport is catching on across the world. The Netherlands has 28 long-distance paths for cyclists. Copenhagen has a “bike skyway.” London is planning to build a network of “direct, high capacity, joined-up cycle tracks.” Paris has unveiled a $160 million plan to build proposed “highways” for cyclists.
Here in the U.S., the number of trips made per bicycle from 2001 to 2009 more than doubled to 4 billion from just 1.7 billion, according to research from the League of American Bicyclists.
States such as Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennessee recorded increases of over 100 per cent in number of cyclists, even spurring a national Bike to Work Day every September 3.
Despite these large numbers, cyclists are yet to get the infrastructural recognition their fellows in Europe are getting.
Munich’s bicycle highway proposal, however, is not as good as done. It has to pass through the city’s political representatives where analysts predict it will face stiff opposition.
Munich is blessed with a very dense population, meaning all space is currently used in some way. Finding 4oo miles of space will mean taking away space from other users, including roads and sidewalks. As in most cities, cars take up most of the space.
Kastrup said, “Perhaps this has to change a little. Perhaps they have to give a little space to other means of transport.”
Bicycles are fast becoming the modern means of efficient, healthy and environmentally friendly commuting. Through expanded tracks, these benefits will now be available to a much larger segment of the population.