In many areas of the world, bicycles are becoming the preferred method of transportation for people living within major metro areas. Places like London and Denmark have created impressive bicycle infrastructure projects to supporting this growing trend, but Korea’s solar panel-covered bicycle highway may make more sense for America’s urban sprawl.
Covering approximately 20 miles/ 32 kms between the cities of Sejong and and Daejeon, though that’s just a small slice of a proposed bike path network covering more than 217 miles/350 kms just around Sejong itself. Korea’s crowded highways have convinced many commuters to ditch four wheels and an engine for two wheels and pedals. While Europe is often praised for its support of cyclists, this Korean bike path utilizes space well on two levels; building within an oft-underutilized space (highway medians) and maximizing sustainability by adding solar panels.
There’s an even more important factor to take into consideration though, and that’s the psychological effect this bike path has on drivers. Imagine being stuck in traffic, only to see a troupe of cyclists cruise on by, looking happy and healthy while you’re stuck wasting gas and listening to the same ten K-Pop songs on the radio. Wouldn’t you rather get out of your car and join them?
There are of course some concerns, and not just the potential for an errant car to slam into the bikepath (those guardrails look pretty sturdy, but I doubt they’d stop a loaded semi-truck). My primary concern would be breathing in all those emissions during rush hour, day in and day out. Perhaps my worries are a bit overblown (or maybe not), but it is something at least worth pondering.
More to the point though, Korea’s covered bike highway is a model I can see working for the U.S., what with our many miles of unused highway medians. I’m not suggesting we put bike highways across the empty vastness of Wyoming, but connecting the suburbs with cities via bike highways could both reduce traffic congestion and encourage the citizenry to embrace a healthier lifestyle, without asking those who have to drive to give up much, if any roadway.
It could work if you ask me, but where would it work best?