Amazing cycle super highways making bikes the transport of the future

Peter Shadbolt, for CNN

 

Updated 1:01 PM ET, Wed October 7, 2015

 

The bike path that connects the Amsterdam suburbs of Krommenie and Wormerveer last year became the world's first road with embedded solar panels over a 70m stretch. When the path is extended to 100m in 2016, it's hoped it will produce enough electricity to power three households.

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The bike path as artwork is gaining in popularity. The kilometer-long "Van Gogh-Roosegaarde" cycle path, in the Netherlands, is inspired by Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and features 50,000 glow-in-the-dark stones, which have been embedded in the ground.

Lyon, France's second city, has its own bike share scheme "Velo'v" to rival the "Velib" system of its big sister Paris. But Paris does not have Lyon's "Le Tube" - a 2km car-free route that doubles as a continuous art installation with projected images.

 

The Spanish city of San Sebastian has converted a disused railway tunnel into what is claimed to be the world's longest bike commuter tunnel. The tunnel allows for quick access to Bilbao, which was previously separated by steep hills.

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The Trampe bicycle lift has been in existence for more than 20 years but was recently rebuilt as the new and improved "CycloCable." Using ski-lift technology, cyclists put their right foot on a traveling plate that tows the rider up a 130 meter hill with a gradient of 1:5.

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One of London's more ambitious proposals, the Norman Foster-designed elevated bike paths would use existing rail routes to shoot cyclists around the congested city. The design would comprise a total of 221km of bike paths on 10 routes, accommodating 12,000 cyclists per hour.

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A proposal for a floating bike path that would use London's oldest thoroughfare, the river Thames. The 12km stretch would connect Battersea with the Docklands and slice the cycling time between the two destinations by 30 minutes.

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The London Underline concept seeks to transform the city's disused metro tunnels into a network of underground pathways for pedestrians and cyclists. London has 250 miles (400km) of metro tunnels and 18 "ghost" tube stations which are not used.

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London is now counting on the bicycle as a true transport solution. The city's mayor Boris Johnson has pushed through a proposal for a 24km segregated bike path that will connect the east and the west of the city by 2016.

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The Hovenring in the Netherlands is a suspended bicycle path roundabout near Eindhoven. The city council there decided it wanted a piece of infrastructure that not only separated bikes and traffic, but would become an eye-catching tourist attraction as well.

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10 photos:

The bike path that connects the Amsterdam suburbs of Krommenie and Wormerveer last year became the world's first road with embedded solar panels over a 70m stretch. When the path is extended to 100m in 2016, it's hoped it will produce enough electricity to power three households.

Hide Caption

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10 photos:

The bike path as artwork is gaining in popularity. The kilometer-long "Van Gogh-Roosegaarde" cycle path, in the Netherlands, is inspired by Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and features 50,000 glow-in-the-dark stones, which have been embedded in the ground.

Hide Caption

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10 photos:

Lyon, France's second city, has its own bike share scheme "Velo'v" to rival the "Velib" system of its big sister Paris. But Paris does not have Lyon's "Le Tube" - a 2km car-free route that doubles as a continuous art installation with projected images.

Hide Caption

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10 photos:

The Spanish city of San Sebastian has converted a disused railway tunnel into what is claimed to be the world's longest bike commuter tunnel. The tunnel allows for quick access to Bilbao, which was previously separated by steep hills.

Hide Caption

9 of 10

10 photos:

The Trampe bicycle lift has been in existence for more than 20 years but was recently rebuilt as the new and improved "CycloCable." Using ski-lift technology, cyclists put their right foot on a traveling plate that tows the rider up a 130 meter hill with a gradient of 1:5.

Hide Caption

10 of 10

10 photos:

One of London's more ambitious proposals, the Norman Foster-designed elevated bike paths would use existing rail routes to shoot cyclists around the congested city. The design would comprise a total of 221km of bike paths on 10 routes, accommodating 12,000 cyclists per hour.

Hide Caption

1 of 10

10 photos:

A proposal for a floating bike path that would use London's oldest thoroughfare, the river Thames. The 12km stretch would connect Battersea with the Docklands and slice the cycling time between the two destinations by 30 minutes.

Hide Caption

2 of 10

10 photos:

The London Underline concept seeks to transform the city's disused metro tunnels into a network of underground pathways for pedestrians and cyclists. London has 250 miles (400km) of metro tunnels and 18 "ghost" tube stations which are not used.

Hide Caption

3 of 10

10 photos:

London is now counting on the bicycle as a true transport solution. The city's mayor Boris Johnson has pushed through a proposal for a 24km segregated bike path that will connect the east and the west of the city by 2016.

Hide Caption

4 of 10

10 photos:

The Hovenring in the Netherlands is a suspended bicycle path roundabout near Eindhoven. The city council there decided it wanted a piece of infrastructure that not only separated bikes and traffic, but would become an eye-catching tourist attraction as well.

Hide Caption

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(CNN)While new innovations in automobile technology may grab the headlines, it's easy to forget that the bicycle, which predates the motor car by decades and assumed its basic design by the 1880s, is one form of transport that just refuses to go away.

At one stage, it was even thought to be the transport of the future. An elevated cycleway connecting Los Angeles and Pasadena was mooted as early as 1896 by Pasadena's far-sighted mayor Horace Dobbins, but only one mile of the white-elephant structure was ever built.

By the time its truncated route was completed, the motor car and the street car had begun to eclipse the bicycle.

By 1900, even its chief investor had lost faith in its future.

"I have concluded that we are a little ahead of time on this cycleway. Wheelmen have not evidenced enough interest in it..." Dobbins opined in 1900 in the Los Angeles Times.

 

Old technology with a bright future

 

We might not be returning to the horse and cart anytime soon, but cities are beginning to realize that bicycles are an old technology with a very bright future.

    Clean, inexpensive and in many cases faster than road transport, cities that were once turned over to the motor vehicle are making more space for bicycles. And some of the solutions -- in terms of infrastructure and bicycle technology -- are as surprising as they are innovative.

    London is one city that has perennially struggled with its transport infrastructure. Densely populated and with a streetscape that owes more to its medieval layout than to the grid patterns of major U.S. metropolises, London is looking at the bicycle as a future transport solution rather than a recreational pastime.

     

    Cycle superhighway

     

    The city is currently poised to spend £900 million ($1.4 billion) on one of Europe's most ambitious bicycle path infrastructure projects. Called the East-West Cycle Superhighway, the separated bicycle path would connect Acton in West London with Barking in the east -- a journey of more than 18 miles.

    "Bikes already make up 24 per cent of all rush-hour traffic in central London - hundreds of thousands of journeys every day that would otherwise be made by car or public transport," said London mayor Boris Johnson.

    "Because this isn't just about cyclists. Getting more people on to their bikes will reduce pressure on the road, bus and rail networks, cut pollution, and improve life for everyone, whether or not they cycle themselves."

    Other plans for London include a SkyCycle pathway -- designed by the famous architecture firm Norman Foster -- of 220km of bike paths suspended above railway lines and one proposal for a floating bike path that would be anchored to riverbed along the Thames.

     

    Tunnel vision

     

    One plan even proposes using some of London's disused underground railway stations and tunnels as part of a series of subterranean bicycle paths. "Our concept proposes repurposing underutilized infrastructure to provide quick links between existing tube stations and key London landmarks and destinations," said Ian Mulcahey, managing director of Gensler London, the architecture and design firm behind the idea.

    Despite a support rate of 84% for the cycle superhighway, however, the city's cycling lobby is often at loggerheads with other interest groups.

    Opponents -- including the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association - say segregated bike paths will take too much space from motor traffic and will bring gridlock.

    Lobbyists from the London Cycling Campaign, in the meantime, say it will take more than a few glossy proposals from architecture firms before they take their fight off the streets.

    "London Cycling Campaign's solution to city cycling is to redesign our existing street network to create space for cycling," campaign manager Rosie Downes told CNN.

    "Ideas to put cycles in the sky, or underground, are completely counter to the principle that cycling should be made an attractive and convenient option, and perpetuate the incorrect notion that there isn't enough space above ground to provide Dutch-style solutions.

    "The greatest potential for cycling is for local journeys such as to school or the shops -- and the way to enable such journeys is to make the existing street network safe and inviting for cycling."