Germany Opens First Segment Of 60 Mile Long Bicycle Highway


Germany has plans for a 60 mile long dedicated bicycle highway similar to its famous autobahn for motorized vehicles. When complete, the route will connect 10 western cities including Duisburg, Bochum, and Hamm, and four universities. Martin Toennes of regional development group RVR says almost two million people live within 1.2 miles of the bicycle highway and will be able to use sections of it for their daily commutes. With the rise in popularity of electric bicycles to help with undulating terrain, RVR says the bike way, which utilizes mostly abandoned railroad tracks in the Ruhr Valley, could replace up to 50,000 motor vehicles during daily commuting hours.

Bicycle Highway in Germany


Bicycle highways are an idea that began in the Netherlands and Denmark. London has declared it will build one to help fight congestion. It is catching on in other German cities, too. Frankfurt is planning a 18-mile path south to Darmstadt. Munich has proposed a 9 mile long route into its northern suburbs. Nuremberg and Berlin are conducting feasibility studies for bicycle highways of their own.

At present, bike paths in German cities are narrow and may merge suddenly into a bus lane or come to an abrupt dead end. The new bike routes are more than 12 feet wide, have overtaking lanes, and usually cross roads via overpasses and underpasses in order to avoid conflicts between bicycles and motor vehicles at busy intersections. They are well lit and kept clear of snow in the winter, according to Agence France-Presse.

Completion of the entire proposed 100 kilometer bike route will require cooperation among many political entities. Traditionally, the federal and state governments are responsible for building roadways, leaving cities to build facilities for bicycles on their own. Half the cost of the first 5 kilometer section in the Ruhr region was paid for by the European Union, with another 30% provided by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and the remainder coming from RVR. To compete the project at a time when government funding is facing significant constraints, the use of advertising along the right of way is under consideration.

Bicycle Highway In LA

Dedicated bicycle routes are nothing new. In 1897, a wealthy Los Angeles native by the name of Horace Dobbins proposed a bicycle toll road from Pasadena to downtown. The fare was set at 10 cents one way and 15 cents round trip. Before the advent of the automobile, 6% of all Angelinos relied on bicycles for transportation. Dobbins used his connections to push the plan through the California legislature and construction began but was never completed. Instead, the automobile arrived on the scene, sending bicycle usage into a steep decline. Today, the Arroyo Seco parkway runs where the bike path was supposed to go.

Almost 120 years later, the battle between automobiles and bicycles is being played out once again, as cities around the world struggle to cope with the onslaught of motorized vehicles that clog downtown areas and create unhealthy atmospheric conditions overhead. Has the era of the automobile reached its high water mark and starting to subside? Don’t bet your spoke wrench on it.

Photo Credits: Agence France-Presse, Motherboard


About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I’m interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • evfan

    In Germany, on bicycle path like these, is it ok to ride there with an electric bicycle? Will this paths become full of electric scooters like the Chinese cities?

    • Steve Hanley

      The report by Agence France-Presse indicates that, yes, these bile “autobahns” allow – even welcome – electric bicycles. They are intended to help people get to work, even people with bad knees, bet to work and back without driving a car.

      I am aware that some dedicated cyclists are none to happy to share their bike lanes with motorized vehicles of any kind and consider electric bikes a potential hazard, but the money to build these things is going to come from transportation budgets, not recreational budgets.

      • evfan

        Thanks for the extra information. Regarding electric bicycles, I can see both sides of the argument, but I agree they should be allowed, and a sensible speed limit should help to make it safe for all.

      • BlackTalon53 .

        There are two categories of electric bicycles in Germany – the first is with power support limited to 25km/h and 250W motors, no motor support unless you pedal and it is allowed on the bicycle paths. No insurance, driver’s licence or minimum age is required.

        The other category is powered bicycles that either don’t require you to pedal up to 20km/h or that will continue to support pedaling above speeds of 25km/h, up to 45km/h. For these you need a driver’s licence of a sort, you need to be min 15 years of age, insurance with licence plate and the vehicle needs a permit that shows it is safe to operate on public roads. Those bicycles my not be ridden on bike paths.

        • Steve Hanley

          That is useful information. Thanks for sharing. I actually read about the tiered license requirements in Germany some time ago but had forgotten the details. Thanks for those specifics.