Germans Invented the Autobahn. Now They’re Building a Superhighway for Bikes

A cyclist’s dream will soon be reality in Berlin

Berlin Bike
This Berlin man will soon have access to 13 bike superhighways. Contra Curva - Flickr/Creative Commons

It’s hard out there for a cyclist. Bike lanes are often too close to traffic for comfort—that is, when they exist at all. And then there’s the pain that is waiting at a million stop lights and pedestrian crossings in the name of safety. If only it were possible to hop onto a bike and just…go. You know, like cars on a freeway. 

Leave it to the people who invented the Autobahn to figure out a solution. As Feargus O’Sullivan reports for CityLab, Berlin is building a network of bike superhighways in a bid to become more bike-friendly.

Berlin's Senate Department for Environment, Transport, and Climate Change estimates that currently half of the journeys taken in Berlin are under 3.1 miles, but a third of these journeys are undertaken by car.

In a bid to lower that number, the 13 long-distance bike routes will each run 3.1 miles at a minimum, writes Sullivan, and they will require cyclists to stop for no more than 30 seconds to accommodate intersections or lights. Like a superhighway, they’ll be super wide, too—at least 13 feet across.

The highways are sure to get a lot of attention in Germany’s busy capital city, but they aren’t the country’s first bike superhighways. In 2016, Christian Schwägerl wrote about a similar project in the Ruhr Valley for Yale Environment 360. It’s a similarly sized thoroughfare that the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia now considers to be a type of infrastructure. Schwägerl writes that similar projects are underway in Munich, too—and already, the bike lanes on steroids are being praised for reducing commute times and traffic deaths.

If all of this leaves you feeling a bit envious, never fear: There could be a bike superhighway coming to a U.S. city near you. A 64-mile-long stretch of cycling heaven in Texas could one day connect Dallas and Forth Worth, and a similar project is proposed in North Carolina along an existing highway between Raleigh and Durham. The trend can be found in Denmark, the U.K., and France, too. And the increasing popularity of bike commuting could make such proposals more and more popular.

Fast.Co’s Shaunacy Ferro writes in "A Brief History Of Bike Superhighways" that the idea has been around since at least the late 19th century, when the first bicycle freeway was opened in that most highway-hungry of cities, Los Angeles. So, Germans didn’t invent the bicycle superhighway…but there’s no doubt that they’ll bring their trademark precision to bear in Berlin when construction on the project begins in late 2017.

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