Germany gives green light to bicycle highways

December 29, 2015 by Pauline Houede
Fans hail the smooth new velo routes as the answer to urban traffic jams and air pollution, and a way to safely get nine-to-five
Fans hail the smooth new velo routes as the answer to urban traffic jams and air pollution, and a way to safely get nine-to-fivers outdoors

It's every cyclist's dream: no red lights, no trucks, just a clear, smooth lane to zoom down with the wind in your face. Welcome to Germany's first bicycle Autobahn.

Fans hail the smooth new velo routes as the answer to urban traffic jams and air pollution, and a way to safely get nine-to-fivers outdoors.

As a glimpse of a greener urban transport future, Germany has just opened the first five-kilometre (three-mile) stretch of a bicycle highway that is set to span over 100 kilometres.

It will connect 10 western cities including Duisburg, Bochum and Hamm and four universities, running largely along disused railroad tracks in the crumbling Ruhr industrial region.

Almost two million people live within two kilometres of the route and will be able to use sections for their daily commutes, said Martin Toennes of regional development group RVR.

Aided by booming demand for electric bikes, which take the sting out of uphill sections, the new track should take 50,000 cars off the roads every day, an RVR study predicts.

The idea, pioneered in the Netherlands and Denmark, is gaining traction elsewhere in Germany too.

The banking centre of Frankfurt is planning a 30-kilometre path south to Darmstadt, the Bavarian capital of Munich is plotting a 15-kilometre route into its northern suburbs, and Nuremberg has launched a feasibility study into a track linking it with four cities.

A cyclist enjoys the first five-kilometre (three-mile) stretch of a bicycle highway in Mulheim an der Ruhr, which will connect 1
A cyclist enjoys the first five-kilometre (three-mile) stretch of a bicycle highway in Mulheim an der Ruhr, which will connect 10 western cities including Duisburg, Bochum and Hamm and four universities

In the capital Berlin, the city administration in early December gave the green light to a feasibility study on connecting the city centre with the leafy southwestern suburb of Zehlendorf.

Rapid track

The new velo routes are a luxury upgrade from the ageing single-lane bike paths common in many German cities, where tree roots below can create irregular speed bumps and a mellow cycling lane can suddenly end or, more alarmingly, merge into a bus lane.

The new type of bike routes are around four metres (13 feet) wide, have overtaking lanes and usually cross roads via overpasses and underpasses. The paths are lit and cleared of snow in winter.

The new velo routes are a luxury upgrade from the ageing single-lane bike paths common in many German cities
The new velo routes are a luxury upgrade from the ageing single-lane bike paths common in many German cities

Like most infrastructure projects, the bicycle Autobahn is facing headwinds, however, especially when it comes to financing.

In Germany, the situation is complicated because while the federal government generally builds and maintains motor-, rail- and waterways, cycling infrastructure is the responsibility of local authorities.

For the Ruhr region's initial five-kilometre rapid track, the cost was shared, with the European Union funding half, North Rhine-Westphalia state coughing up 30 percent, and the RVR investing 20 percent.

Toennes said talks are ongoing to rustle up 180 million euros ($196 million) for the entire 100-kilometre route, with the state government, run by centre-left Social Democrats and the Greens party, planning legislation to take the burden off municipalities.

The German Bicycle Club ADFC argues that, since about 10 percent of trips in the country are now done by bicycle, cycling infras
The German Bicycle Club ADFC argues that, since about 10 percent of trips in the country are now done by bicycle, cycling infrastructure should get at least 10 percent of federal transport funding

"Without (state) support, the project would have no chance," said Toennes, pointing to the financial difficulties many local governments would have in paying for maintenance, lighting and snow clearance.

In Berlin, a heavily indebted city-state, the conservative CDU party has proposed a private financing model based in part on advertising along the route.

"The bike highways are new in Germany," said Birgit Kastrup, in charge of the Munich project. "We must find a new concept for funding them."

The German Bicycle Club ADFC argues that, since about 10 percent of trips in the country are now done by bicycle, cycling infrastructure should get at least 10 percent of federal transport funding.

"Building highways in cities is a life-threatening recipe from the 1960s," said its manager Burkhard Stork. "No one wants more cars in cities."

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25 comments

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antialias_physorg
4.5 / 5 (8) Dec 29, 2015
It's every cyclist's dream: no red lights, no trucks, just a clear, smooth lane to zoom down with the wind in your face.

As a cyclist I'll have to say: the actual dream is to have the wind at your *back*

and Nuremberg has launched a feasibility study into a track linking it with four cities.

Oooh. Please. Yes. Please. (Though we already have a very nice stretch for cycling near the Main-Donau channel which spans nearly 200km in length)

With e-bikes becoming ubiquitous bike lanes are getting crowded at times. Not as bad as in the Netherlands but noticeably so.
Eikka
2 / 5 (9) Dec 29, 2015
the new track should take 50,000 cars off the roads every day


Except on rainy days, snowy days, cold days and particularily windy days.

Who likes to cycle in the mud and slush? Hands up?
antigoracle
Dec 29, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Benni
1.4 / 5 (10) Dec 29, 2015
When it starts snowing, the biking only greenies around here come knocking on their neighbor's doors begging for rides to the nearest town to buy groceries. That picture of the barren trees & wet roads will soon have a tale to tell.

I wonder if Anti_Physics will be on hand to provide rides for his biking only countryfolk?
Sigh
5 / 5 (6) Dec 29, 2015
Except on rainy days, snowy days, cold days and particularily windy days.

Living without a car where there is snow or slush for about four months a year I find that is not my favourite time for cycling, but I still get around. I don't even have a car, and I only use the bus if I need to catch a train and don't want to leave my bike at the station.

Who likes to cycle in the mud and slush? Hands up?

Do you bother asking the same question about driving cars?
TechnoCreed
5 / 5 (4) Dec 29, 2015
Seriously?
They are calling it the "bicycle Autobahn".
Come on people. How about the Douchebahn?

Nein, das fahrradbahn... Watch out before changing lanes! Jens Voight, Jan Ulrich or Erik Zabel might pass by in high gear :-p
Shakescene21
5 / 5 (4) Dec 29, 2015
The Fahrradbahn would be irrelevant in the USA. Whenever I want to ride my bike on a bike trail, I put it on my car and drive to the bike path. After I ride my bike for a while I put it back on my car and drive home.

I live less than two miles (3 km) from a shopping center but I can't ride my bike to shop because the road is too dangerous. In America we need to build a huge network of local bike paths before we can think about bicycle highways.
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (7) Dec 30, 2015
The Fahrradbahn would be irrelevant in the USA.
...
I live less than two miles (3 km) from a shopping center but I can't ride my bike to shop because the road is too dangerous.

Well, such a bicycle road would solve yopur problem, then, right? (Though shopping by bike is tricky)


Except on rainy days, snowy days, cold days and particularily windy days.

Who likes to cycle in the mud and slush? Hands up?

As usual you fail to grasp the idea, here. It's not about reducing car traffic to zero or getting rid of cars. It's about using cars less (even in germany 2/3 of all days are dry days). A car that is used less costs you less and puts less pollutants into the atmosphere (besides the fitness aspect for the people using their (e)bikes). It's win-win for everyone.
Eikka
1.6 / 5 (7) Dec 30, 2015
A car that is used less costs you less


A car that sits idle on your driveway 2/3 of the year is mighty expensive.

The cost of owning the car becomes the dominant factor on a dollars per mile basis, rather than the use of it - assuming that you actually do drive so little that you can do your daily miles on a bicycle. In that scenario, you aren't actually saving very much by driving a bicycle. You might as well drive the car rather than let it rot away.

For example, suppose you cycle instead of drive 5-10 miles per workday, 260 workdays a year, 1300 - 2600 miles total distance. That represents a saving of around $150-300 in fuel. Meanwhile, the total cost of owning a car levelized to a yearly basis is close to $10,000; the cost of it, taxes and fees, registration, maintenance... etc.

You'd be rather mad - or very rich - to own a car and then not drive it. Sure, you do save a hundred bucks a year, by losing time and arriving at work/home sweaty and wet.

Eikka
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 30, 2015
Also, you then lose all the savings on buying an e-bike and replacing its batteries every couple years. And if you really want to get into it, you should also count the additional calories you eat and how much it costs and pollutes to produce those.

Point being that all economic activity is polluting, because in order to do business we use energy, and 80% of that energy is coming from fossil fuels at the moment at least. That is, to pay someone money means pollution - just not directly by you.

So the savings are largely an illusion until the whole system becomes greener. If not, you're simply paying indulgences to ease your personal guilt.
Eikka
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 30, 2015
A human being as a machine is rather inefficient. The mechanical and metabolic efficiency of the body is around 22-25% and the efficiency to extract energy out of food is between 65-95% depending on the type of food. Meat is most efficient, plant-matter like salads and fruit are the least.

So, if we estimate that the bodily efficiency of cycling is 20% from your dinner plate to the road, and we assume 200 Watts of output power - equivalent to a brisk walk or jog - you're consuming 3.6 MJ or 860 kcal of energy per hour. That's exactly 1 kWh, or roughly in the ballpark of a Big Mac meal.

Gasoline costs you 12 cents a kWh. Electricity costs you about 11 cents a kWh. Food costs you dollars per kWh, and the kicker is that 80% of food is grown on artifical fertilizers made out of petroleum gas, then refridgerated, transported, cooked... all on fossil fuels.

So do you actually save anything by cycling?
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (6) Dec 30, 2015
A car that sits idle on your driveway 2/3 of the year is mighty expensive.

Reading fail. I said less - not zero. A car that sits idle will last you longer, cost less in repairs and less in terms of gas.

you aren't actually saving very much by driving a bicycle

If I drive my bycicle one month instead of using my car to get to work I save 150 Euros in gas alone. That's not to be sneezed at. People with cars that get less MPG (basically everyone) and/or longer commutes will save more. And that's not even counting the drop in repair due to less frequent trips to the garage (which can be a substantial savings for older cars). The only thing that remains constant is your insurance. And not even that because you have the option of unregistering/reregistering your car on a month-by-month basis over here. Plenty of people who unregister their car during the summer months.

EnricM
not rated yet Dec 30, 2015


With e-bikes becoming ubiquitous bike lanes are getting crowded at times. Not as bad as in the Netherlands but noticeably so.


LOL, we just love jams: Traffic jams in the highways, train jams in the railway (no joking!) and people packed inside like herrings and bikepath jams !!! Gezellich toch ? XD

antialias_physorg
4.2 / 5 (5) Dec 30, 2015
Even in the Netherlands you don't have bycicle jams. It just gets crowded at certain times of the day during rush hour.

Here's a look at what rushhour looks like in a city like Amsterdam
https://www.youtu..._DalTjV0

Notice how there can be a lot more people in a smaller space than with cars on roads? And that without hindering the flow of traffic? The only way you can optimize traffic more is by using busses (which they use extensively, too). Trying to get the same number of people around with cars would require a LOT more space and cause real traffic jams.
EnricM
5 / 5 (1) Dec 30, 2015
the new track should take 50,000 cars off the roads every day


Except on rainy days, snowy days, cold days and particularily windy days.

Who likes to cycle in the mud and slush? Hands up?


Here?

Well, not everybody, but here in Holland if we had to stop doing things that we usually do when the weather is not good we could as well stay at home all the year long.

Rain, wind and mud are a perfect description of the average Dutch weather. LOL
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (6) Dec 30, 2015
Rain, wind and mud are a perfect description of the average Dutch weather.

We have a saying in germany among cyclists: There's no such thing as bad weather - there's only such a thing as wrong choice of clothing.
antigoracle
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 30, 2015
Gasoline costs you 12 cents a kWh. Electricity costs you about 11 cents a kWh. Food costs you dollars per kWh, and the kicker is that 80% of food is grown on artifical fertilizers made out of petroleum gas, then refridgerated, transported, cooked... all on fossil fuels.

Careful Eikka, you don't want the greenie douchebags to know just how much they are "saving" the earth.
antigoracle
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 30, 2015
Here's one reason bikes must stay on the same road as cars.
http://lolsnaps.c...7936.png
greenonions
4.3 / 5 (6) Dec 30, 2015
Eikka - if you park your car in the driveway - and ride your bike somewhere - you save money - reduce emissions - and get some good exercise. How hard is that to understand? You may also meet some nice people - and make some new friends.
antigoracle
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 30, 2015
Where I am, you see many cars and SUVs with one or more bikes strapped on, driving around the city during the entire summer. I doubt that they are too lazy to take them off when they are not going to use them. It's more a status symbol for these douchebags who can afford the extra fuel they burn from the additional weight and wind resistance they put on their vehicles.
kochevnik
5 / 5 (2) Dec 30, 2015
A car that is used less costs you less
@Eikka A car that sits idle on your driveway 2/3 of the year is mighty expensive.
Not if everyone does it. Then the depreciation curve would drastically adapt
Shakescene21
5 / 5 (1) Dec 31, 2015
SHAKESCENE21: "The Fahrradbahn would be irrelevant in the USA... .I live less than two miles (3 km) from a shopping center but I can't ride my bike to shop because the road is too dangerous."

ANTIALIAS: "Well, such a bicycle road would solve your problem, then, right? (Though shopping by bike is tricky)"

Antialias writes very good English but must have misunderstood my point, which that America needs a vast investment in neighborhood-level bike paths before Farradbahns would make sense. Although I have a bike, I can't ride it beyond my cul-de-sac (200 feet, or 60 m) because the main road is too dangerous.

I would be happy if someone (besides me) paid for a 2-mile Farradbahn from my home to the shopping center, but this would probably cost $25 million or more. It would be necessary to acquire a 15-foot (3.5 m) right-of-way through dozens of properties, destroy several houses, build two substantal overpasses, and then pave the Farradbahn.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Dec 31, 2015
Although I have a bike, I can't ride it beyond my cul-de-sac (200 feet, or 60 m) because the main road is too dangerous.

Yeah, you've got a point. When I was in the US as a kid I had my bike with me. Didn't ride it once because there was no place to go to within reach (and way too dangerous on the open road as automobilists weren't expecting bikes).

But marked bike lanes that share part of the road are possible. Got one right in front of the place I live at, In the US these should be viable since streets are quite a bit wider (and with e-bike the distance issue isn't as critical as it used to be). No need to build anything.
jrobinso
5 / 5 (1) Jan 02, 2016
Shakescene21 I understand your point, but I lived in Boston for 20 years and now live in San Diego and have commuted by bike throughout. You must learn the proper skills, and it is dangerous, but I don't think statistically it is more dangerous than driving a car. Also, for sure being inactive is dangerous. I do agree we need more bike infrastructure.
Shakescene21
5 / 5 (1) Jan 03, 2016
@jrobinso: You're right that being inactive is also dangerous. Statistically, Inactivity might be more dangerous than biking on the average American street..

I also have an exercise bike in my family room which I use more than my real bike. I would much rather look at my neighborhood and neighbors than stare at the wall.

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