Anyone driving anywhere in the world will encounter bike lanes, and even more so in the worlds urban areas. This cycling infrastructure started shortly after the bike boom of the 1880s when the first short stretches of dedicated bicycle infrastructure were built, These began to decline from the mid-20th century onwards with the decline of cycling as a means of transportation
In 1897, American businessman Horace Dobbins began construction on a private, bicycle superhighway that would stretch from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles. And it almost got built. The first 1.25 miles strtch across Pasadena, was in fact erected. At the time there were 30,000 cyclists in the Los Angeles representing 6% of the 500,000 population.
Today with worldwide population and traffic growth reaching record numbers cities that were once turned over to the motor vehicle are making more space for bicycles. Some of the solutions — in terms of infrastructure and bicycle technology — are as surprising as they are innovative.
Denmark, Germany, France and the Netherlands have pioneered the concept of “bicycle superhighways” to increase the speed, safety, and comfort of bicycle commuting. Since then London and Flanders have also started building bicycle superhighways.
Munich is now considering to build a cycle highway to its northern suburbs. They believe the bike is the answer to traffic and environmental problems, and that Bicycle highways are also a way to promote a healthier lifestyle.
The physical design of the routes changes depending on the circumstances and can include shared in-road bikeways, bike lanes and cycle tracks
The first Dutch route opened in 2004 with many others added since then. The first Danish route, opened in 2012 and was built with few stops and new paths away from traffic. “Service stations” with air pumps are located at regular intervals, and where the route must cross streets, handholds and running boards are provided so cyclists can wait without having to put their feet on the ground.
In 2015 Germany’s Ruhr Valley opened the first 3 miles of a planned 62-mile bicycle superhighway connecting 10 cities and four universities in the struggling industrial region. The new bike highway, which utilizes abandoned railroad rights-of-way, differs from existing bike paths in that it is wide enough to allow bikes to travel at faster speeds in both directions. The new bike highway also features overtaking lanes and grade-separated crossings of most other roads. It is also lit and plowed of snow in the winter.
Together with the booming popularity of the electric bike, the highway could lead to a new era of cycle commuting in Germany. In the Ruhr, the distance between cities varies from six to 10 miles, which makes this industrial area ideal for commuting by bike
Other plans for London include a SkyCycle pathway including 220km of bike paths suspended above railway lines and one proposal for a floating bike path that would be anchored to riverbed along the Thames.One plan even proposes using some of London’s disused underground railway stations and tunnels as part of a series of subterranean bicycle paths.
When it comes building serious bicycle highways, the Danes and the Dutch were the great pioneers. While the Danish bicycle highways are concentrated in and around Copenhagen, the Netherlands boasts a network of about 20 bicycle highways throughout the country.
Many big German cities such as Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Nuremberg are looking to create their own bicycle superhighways that include solar bike paths that provide power to local cities, special painted bike paths that light for nightime use along with many other advanced technologies.
fast electric bikes noe enable commuters to easily cover stretches of 12 to 18 miles provided there’s a well-designed road with a smooth surface.
These successes have countries and cities all over the world investing in and building the new bicycle highways that will transport generations of people into the new age of cycling.