Germany, the country that brought you the speedsters' paradise called the Autobahn, is looking to replicate the model for bicyclists. According to the AFP, the country just opened the first 5-kilometer (3-mile) stretch of what will eventually become a 100-km bicycle superhighway.
The goal is to connect 10 cities in the western portion of Germany, including Duisburg, Bochum, and Hamm and four universities, running largely along disused railroad tracks in the crumbling Ruhr industrial region. According to the local development agency RVR, the new bicycle autobahn would provide a commuting route to over 2 million Germans, which could result in 50,000 fewer cars on the road every day.
But what makes Germany's bike highway so super? Separated paths, flat surfacing, and superior right-of-way for bicyclists are some of the design components that would make this project stand out from your basic single-lane bike path. It would give cyclists the ability to travel the entire 100-km stretch without stopping for traffic or slowing down for any irregular, tree root-causing bumps. No red lights, no trucks, just clear sailing.
But like all things infrastructure, funding is very much in doubt. AFP said the cost of the initial 5-km stretch of the superhighway was split between the European Union, RVR, and the North Rhine-Westphalia state government. The cost of the entire 100-km project is expected to exceed €180 million ($196 million).
No red lights, just smooth sailing
The concept of a bike superhighway is not entirely new, especially in velocipede-friendly European countries. Both Denmark (22 km between Copenhagen and Albertslund) and Netherlands (7 km between the city of Breda and the town of Etten-Leur) have their own versions. London is poised to spend €900 million on the East-West Cycle Superhighway, a 30-km separated bike path connecting Acton in West London with Barking in the east. But if and when it's completed, Germany's superhighway will certainly stand out as the longest.
Some Germans, however, say the superhighway is actually just a clever bit of rebranding by the government. "We already have had trails like this since 20+ years [sic]," says Noisyfoxx, a Reddit user from the Ruhr region, in a thread about the project, "so it's nothing new at all. It's just being marketed as something new."