A proposed 100km bike path in the heart of Germany has cyclists around the world excited and envious about this "Fahrrad-Autobahn", and while this development is certainly promising, it is not so simple and far from done.
For one, the organizers (Regionalverband Ruhr) do not call it a Bicycle (Fahrrad) Autobahn. But media outlets around the world have jumped on this term as it sounds sexier and makes for better clickbait than Radschnellweg. Radschnellweg and RS1 is actually what this path is called, and the proposed 100km segment is meant to go from Duisburg to Hamm and connect 10 cities (Duisburg, Mühlheim, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Bochum, Dortmund, Unna, Kamen, Bergkamen and Hamm) in the central region of Germany. But at this time only two 5km sections are finished, with another 16km from Mülheim to Duisburg on the radar.
But 10km or 26km is better than nothing, and it is a promising sign for what is possible and hopefully still to come.
In an area that has big traffic congestion concerns, including the always crowded and sluggish A40 Autobahn, the RS1 Radschnellweg is designed to allow commuters to move swiftly from one area to another, connecting to train stations and other important points. With E-bikes gaining popularity in Germany, people are willing to travel further by bike to avoid sitting in traffic and spending money on expensive fuel. The RS1 though is not meant for amateur cyclists to test their prowess and attempt time trial efforts.
Various existing bike paths and train tracks are being converted to get this done, with cyclists and pedestrians separated. Cyclists get a 4 meter wide space and those on foot have 2 meters of space parallel to the bike path. Plus the Radschnellweg is away from other traffic and thus safer. Safety is likely the number one concern of cyclists, and one of the big reasons why more folks do not want to commute by bike. Too many regular bike paths in bigger cities are difficult to navigate and often dangerous. That is not a concern with the RS1.
"It is a historic traffic political sign because we connected 2 big cities with a fast bicycle path. It is 4 meters wide and has a 2 meter wide pedestrian path next to it. You can cycle here until you run out of breath," said Michael Groschek, the traffic minister of Nordrhein Westfalen, during the opening of the second 5km stretch.
In the neighboring Netherlands, fast bike paths are already in place and serve as an inspiration for the Germans. The same is true for Denmark and the UK where fast bike paths have already been established.
The organizing communities also hope to reduce noise and pollution in the Ruhrpot area. But that is a concern that is not unique to this region.
People who have tested the RS1 have raved about it and called the asphalt smooth as butter. The goal is to have the full 100km finished by 2020.
The slogan of the RS1 is "Der schnellste Weg durchs Revier" or "the fastest path through the area." More details can be found at rs1.ruhr