Sweden Plans A New Superhighway For Cyclists

Those Scandinavians are so cutting edge and bike friendly. Now they’re going a step further, connecting two cities with a major artery that’s for bikes only.

In the past several years, some of the cities most aggressively promoting cycling have built so-called bike superhighways. Unlike the simple bike path of the 20th century, these superhighways are wide, span long distances, and are often physically separated from the street with limited exits. They’re made with the cycling commuter in mind, not just the recreational weekend biker.

London has been developing an extensive network of bike superhighways since 2010. Copenhagen, one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities, has been working on expanding its own. And they’ve been popping up in other parts of the world as well.

The latest to emerge is in Sweden, where there’s a proposal to build a 12.5-mile bike superhighway to connect the college town of Lund to the metropolis of Malmö (PDF). This supercykelväg, as the Swedes call it, would have two lanes in each direction with fences and landscaping to both separate it from traffic and provide wind protection. In a brilliant addition, the plans also call for multiple bike service stations along the route.

The total cost of the project is expected to be $7.1 million. Malmö has committed $4.1 million, with the rest of the financing expected to come from the national government and Lund. So the project isn’t quite green-lit yet, but given the robust support for cycling in Scandinavian countries, it would be surprising if it doesn’t go ahead.

These superhighways can have a dramatic effect on transportation patterns. When London opened its first superhighways, they attracted 70% more riders than used the previously existing bike routes.

And here in the United States? Well, things are moving a little more slowly. New York has a bike route along the west side of Manhattan that might qualify as a "superhighway" and Chicago is in the early stages of building a city-wide cycling infrastructure for commuters. Nationally, Ray LaHood has even been talking about reviving America’s interstate bike system. We can dream.

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  • Genesee River Wilder

    Obviously there are many trail systems all over the USA that indicate movement in this direction.  One way to expand stakeholder interest in such projects beyond the cycling community is by taking advantage of the fact that many old railroads were built along waterways.  Efforts to restore rail-trails as bicycling trails attract broader support when incorporated into a wider greenway corridor with forested riparian buffers.  These provide inexpensive natural flood control, natural water filtration systems that protect and improve water quality, riverside shade to improve fisheries by cooling water and increasing debris for fish habitat, protected "wildway" habitat for other wildlife dependent on the unique eco-systems formed along the edges of river and stream systems, and opportunities for interpretive signage that complements natural science education.  The economic incentives of flood control alone can sometimes be crucial to attracting the most hesitant legislators.  For an example of how watershed protection can expand stakeholder interests in cycling infrastructure in this way, see the "Triple Divide Trail System Strategic Plan" for a system that will extend ca. 230 miles from Rochester, NY, to Williamsport, PA (available in PDF on the website of the Genesee River Wilds Project).

  • olbiketech

    It would be so nice to see America adopt a policy that mirrors Europes understanding of the value of such projects. Both on a healthy lifestyle approach and the benefit of no carbon footprint. America has made progress with the "bike share" ideaology and it is gaining in popularity and spreading. Sadly, current economic factors put any gains pertaining to bicycling at risk. Our elected officals cannot even agree on finding the funds to repair our crumbling bridges and highways, let alone have the foresight to make a positive impact on green transportation.

  • amsterdamize

    It's very good to hear that Sweden makes this important move. However, fastcoexist is too quick to label this 'cutting edge'. The Netherlands have pioneered these inter-city bicycle highways for a few decades now and have recently funded new projects to expand to 16 of them.

    The Netherlands have really been on the cutting edge of developing high quality bicycle infrastructure & urban design (since the late 1970's), leading to the highest bike modal share figures & safety record in the world, yet are often systematically 'ignored' when publications look for best/proven concepts. Very odd.

    To make a point regarding London's 'super cycle highways': when reps went to Copenhagen on a bike infrastructure fact-finding mission for their highway plans, I then predicted they'd only be interested in the blue paint. I was sorry to hear I was right. 
    The results are in (forget the 70% increase, that was for *existing* cyclists*): they never offered enough subjective/real safety for other people to take up cycling, it's far too dangerous: patchy, inconsistent network, lots of cars parked in the lanes, extremely dangerous junctions (16 people on bikes got killed just in 2011).

  • Maxsilver1

    Up here in Hillbilly hell there is no way this would happen. It is a small enough town run by idiots all the while claiming "no money" for anything but their pet projects.

  • Jorgen Faxholm

    There are NO super highways in London. Period.
    The Mayor's bravado about makinig London the " leading bike-town" is well meant, but unlikely to be implemented because of the rather 18th C streetscape.

  • CivicSponsor

    We just launched CivicSponsor to fund big public project ideas like bike superhighways. I would really love to get working on something like this in the States...anyone have contacts that could help us at CivicSponsor to start funding it?

  • John McGovern

    Wow Russ - thanks for the opportunity!  I am leading  at team in Cleveland through the Mayors Office on a project to re-purpose 50-70 miles of streets in the City's road network to be used as Cycle Tracks, aka segregated/protected bicycle facilities.  Due to 50 years of population decline (finally beginning to reverse), we have excess capacity, so now's the time to capture it for a higher purpose - bicycles!!

  • Paul Fulford

    You mention London's cycling superhighways but sadly these amount to little more than strips of blue painted Tarmac punctuated by bus stops which force the cyclist back into the traffic and populated by parked cars and vans on delivery. A far cry from the segregated facilities described.

  • Froggie

    Minneapolis has something roughly similar in its Kenilworth/Cedar Lake Trail and Midtown Greenway paths. The former is even 4-lane divided in segments.