Cycling remains to be one of the most efficient, city-friendly modes of transport and continues to experience popular growth as fuel-free alternatives to commuting. Needless to say, some cities are far more accommodating to cyclists than others. Based on the 2015 rankings by Copenhagenize, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Utrecht top the list of most cyclable cities, while Minneapolis, Hamburg and Montreal just about scrap into the tail end of the top 20. As cities look to cut back their carbon emissions, decongest their streets and get their populations physically active, more and more governments are dedicating time, money and infrastructure to the once-humble bicycle. Spearheading the concept of cycle highways – which differ from bike lanes by being wider and fully reserved for cyclists – Amsterdam was unsurprisingly the first to build a dedicated, high-speed bike lane back in 2004. Today, urban headlines are increasingly filling with announcements of ambitious, similar projects, encouraging life on two wheels.
While Copenhagen tops the list for cyclability, if there’s one population intrinsically tied to cycling, it’s the Dutch capital. Known as snelfietsroute (fast bike route) or a fietssnelweg (cycle highway), the first Dutch route opened in 2004 between Breda and Etten-Leur and since then, 10 more have been added and a further 21 proposed routes have been under review. Completion of the proposed new cycle highways will mean most Dutch cities will be connected to one another and easily accessible by bike, with the longest existing cycle highway covering 12 kilometers already.
The first Danish route, C99, opened in 2012 between the Vesterbro rail station in Copenhagen and Albertslund, covering 22 kilometers from A-B, with air pumps and other cyclist services dotted along the way. The route is the first of a planned network that, when completed, will comprise 26 Cycle Super Highways, covering a total of 300 km. The network will increase the number of cycle lanes in Greater Copenhagen by 15 percent and is predicted to reduce public expenditure by EUR €40.3 million (USD $45 million) annually thanks to improved health.
In May 2016, France unveiled the first stretch of bicycle highway as part of the Réseau express vélo (“REVe”) initiative that plans a 45-kilometer dedicated network through and around Paris. So far, only 600 meters have been completed, running parallel to the Bassin de l’Arsenal. Reve, which translates to ‘dream’ is part of EUR €150 million (USD $164.5 million) plan to increase overall cycling infrastructure in the capital, voted for unanimously by Parisians in 2015.
In late 2015, Germany’s Ruhr valley welcomed the first 11 kilometers of a planned 100-km biking highway that will run from Hamm to Duisburg, running parallel to the Autobahn 40 highway, in a bid to get drivers to switch to two wheels. Meanwhile, in Munich, city planners are considering a proposal to create a network of 14 cycle highways, and Hamburg, Frankfurt and Nuremberg are also in the process of creating this new infrastructure for cycling, known as dedicated highways.
In a bid to catch up with its northern European neighbors, Norway announced a budget of almost USD $1 billion (NOK KR 8 billion) to create 10 cross-country bike tracks in and near Norway’s nine largest cities. Looking to increase the share of commutes taken by bicycle in the country from 5% to somewhere between 10 – 20%, some are skeptical of the government’s plans to encourage cycling given the cold, snowy weather that characterizes Scandinavia.
While London has a strong cycling infrastructure and bike lanes along many major routes and suburban trails, it wasn’t until 2008 that then-mayor Ken Livingstone announced 12 ‘cycle superhighways’ to be constructed in and around the British capital. So far, 7 of them have been implemented and the city has allocated GBP £900 million (USD $1.4 billion) for another which will connect the east of the city to the west with an ambitious 30-kilometer trail.