Monday, January 16, 2012
Sweden Is Getting the Next Bike Superhighway
If you want to find an unassuming place where bicycling is a way of life and nobody makes a big deal about it, head south. The south of Sweden, that is, where the small university town of Lund has a big bicycle habit. They just don't advertise it.
In Lund, 60% of the populace bikes or takes public transport to go about their daily tasks. And then there's Malmö, Sweden's third largest city - only 20 miles southwest of Lund. Malmö also doesn't have a reputation for fantastic biking. But some say it is the country's best biking city - ahead of both Stockholm, the capital; Gothenburg, the second largest Swedish metropolitan area, and a host of smaller bike-friendly burgs.
Just across the Øresund sound from Copenhagen, Malmö has always lived a bit in the shadow of the Danish capital. But in the last few years it has done a lot to take a place among the great biking cities of Northern Europe, mostly by its investment in infrastructure and pure commitment to get people on their bikes. That has paid off - cycling has increased 30% each year for the last four years, while car trips under five kilometers have dropped.
Now Malmö is upping the stakes by putting up 30 million Swedish crowns (about US$4.1 million) toward the building of a four-lane super cycling highway between it and its bike-happy northern neighbor city Lund.
The Swedish Traffic Authority (Trafikverket) has already studied the feasibility of building the bicycle superhighway between the two cities. What remains is for the central government (and Lund and the smaller towns between the two areas) to put their money down. Trafikverket has planned a route for the superhighway running roughly parallel to railway tracks, which makes it easier and less expensive to build, as right of ways are already in place.
The proposed bicycle superhighway would, in addition to four lanes (2 in each direction) have exits but no intersections, two types of wind protection (low bushes as well as solid fencing) periodic bicycle service stations, and would take eight years to complete. Total cost of the superhighway is estimated to be about 50 million Swedish crowns (US$ 7.1 million).
We already know that building bicycle infrastructure is magnitudes cheaper than building new car roads, and better for our health and our air quality. So, what will the first U.S. cities be to build this type ofsystem?