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.