Navigant Research Blog

E-Bikes Pave the Way for German Bicycle Highways

Ryan Citron — January 5, 2016

Germany recently opened its first 5 km (3 mile) bicycle highway, with plans set to expand the highway to over 100 km (62 miles) of track. Bicycle-only highways are more expansive and favorable to cyclists than simple bike paths; the highways are 4 meters (13 feet) wide, have several bike lanes, and are well lit and cleared of snow in the winter. Gone are the days of bicyclists dealing with irregular speed bumps, cars driving into bike lanes, and the startling situation of a bike lane merging with a bus lane.

Safer and Better for the Environment

In addition to serving as a much safer way for cyclists to commute, the German regional development group RVR estimates that the new bicycle tracks will remove 50,000 cars from the road every day—drastically reducing traffic jams and urban air pollution. Overall, the bicycle highway will connect 10 cities and four universities, running largely along unused railroad tracks. Nearly two million people live within a mile of the bicycle highway and will be able to use it for their daily commutes.

E-Bikes are Key to the Infrastructure Expansion

While Germany undoubtedly has a rich history of traditional bicycling, it is also the largest electric bicycle (e-bike) market in Europe, with 480,000 e-bikes sold in 2014 according to the trade association BOVAG. Sales of e-bikes are growing steadily, accounting for roughly 12% of all bicycle sales in Germany—with the e-bike market achieving 17% year-over-year growth in 2014 compared to 2013.

E-bikes help commuters travel longer distances and easily conquer hilly terrain; advantages that are helping more and more German commuters make the switch from cars to cycling. The high adoption rate of e-bikes in the country is contributing to the need for all cyclists to have more safe and private roadways for commuting. As most cities around the world search for ways to reduce the number of cars on the road, they can look to Germany for some basic best practices. Bicycle highways both incentivize and create the necessary infrastructure in order for bicycles and e-bikes to play a major role in urban mobility. Keep an eye out for the upcoming update to Navigant Research’s Electric Bicycles report for more on this topic.

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