Beijing may soon be home to its first-ever “bicycle highway” – a two-lane roadway that will be completely dedicated to cyclists. The proposed expressway will stretch 9km and connect the northwest areas of Huilongguan and Shangdi with tech hub Zhongguancun.
Although the project is still in its research phases, construction is expected to begin next year, China Daily reports.
The announcement was made by Beijing city center deputy director Gan Feng in early October, but plans have been in the works since last year. Although the specifics of the project are yet to be released, initial plans show that the road will have two lanes, be 5 to 7 meters wide and consist of both elevated and ground-level tracks.
The issue with existing ‘bicycle-only’ paths and lanes in the capital is that they are often overrun with cars and motorbikes. The proposed bicycle highway will avoid this by being built away from other streets and highways. In addition, e-bikes and motorbikes will be strictly prohibited from using the road.
Beijing isn’t the first Chinese city to devise such an idea. A 7.6km elevated bike path was completed in Xiamen in February. The difference is that Xiamen’s path (pictured above) is intended for exercise and leisure, whereas the capital’s bicycle expressway is being built specifically for commuters.
Traffic between the areas of Huilongguan, Shangdi and Zhongguancun has become notorious in recent years, and it’s estimated that one-fifth of residents living in Huilongguan work in Zhongguancun and 16 percent work in Shangdi. The new expressway would help ease traffic and reduce commute times.
So far, the bicycle highway is welcome news to locals.
“Of course I will use it,” Hu Xia, a resident of Huilongguan who works in Zhongguancun, tells That’s Beijing. “I found out about this news last year. [I think it's a good idea] because it will shorten my time to work, and I liked traveling by bike in my spare time before I had a baby. So when I heard the news, I was excited.”
It will only take 20 to 30 minutes to cycle from Huilongguan to Zhongguancun via the expressway, whereas the commute currently takes roughly one hour by car. The new road will also ease traffic on public transportation – such as buses and subways – much to the relief of commuters. “You know, it's very crowded when you go to work by subway during rush hour," Hu says.
In addition to easing traffic congestion, Beijing officials also hope this will promote green modes of transportation in a smog-riddled city. With the bicycle highway, Beijing is capitalizing on the current shared-bike trend that has swept the capital in the past year. There are currently 2.4 million shared bikes in Beijing – so many that the local government banned new shared bikes from entering the city in September.
The bicycle expressway is just one of many bike-oriented projects currently underway in the capital. Beijing also plans to construct 600km of pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes by the end of this year and 3,200km of pedestrian and bicycle paths by 2020.