Bike highways in Norway

Cyclists in Norway’s capital of Oslo, where new bike highways will be constructed to support cycling in the country. Photo: Courtesy of Larry Lamsa/Flickr

Earlier this week, Norway announced it would be investing $923 million in developing a new network of bike highways through its nine most populated cities. The investment in cycling comes as the country attempts to make itself completely carbon neutral by 2050.

While it might seem a world away from the U.S., Norway’s commitment to cycling is actually something many U.S. cities could learn from, as more and more people attempt to pick up cycling as a viable transportation method. Though skeptics reading about Norway’s plan might just chalk it up as another Scandinavian country professing its love for bicycling (a la Denmark, where 17 percent of all traffic in the country is via bicycle) the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

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Norway is completely different than Denmark. It features more inclement weather and a more mountainous terrain, for starters, but it also lacks a public that is predisposed to biking (with only five percent of the population currently using bikes for transportation).

But, what Norway does have is commitment.

While the term “bike highway” might conjure mental images of long-distance bike trails that criss-cross the entire country and are rarely used, the reality is that the bike highways will simply be designated bike routes that allow cyclists to pedal unabated between inner cities and outer suburbs. Not only are they viable, but Norway is committed to making them work, setting a goal of having 10 to 20 percent of their population using bikes for transportation by 2030.

Meanwhile, across the United States, cities like Seattle are having to bail out their bike-sharing programs, while cities like New York still deal with staggering numbers of cycling-related injuries everyday.

Bike highways in Norway

Critics of the bike-sharing program in Seattle (above) say that the city failed in rolling out the program on a large enough scale. Photo: Courtesy of SDOT Photos/Flickr

There are multiple reasons for these issues in Seattle and New York.

In Seattle, critics say that the bike-sharing program isn’t widespread enough, and that the city failed in its roll out, losing the public’s interest. Meanwhile in the Big Apple, the biggest issue isn’t the lack of bike-sharing locations, it’s the fact that cyclists are forced to share overcrowded streets with gridlocked vehicular traffic.

However, in Norway, those issues don’t exist. They aren’t taking any half-steps and expecting immediate results. Instead, they’re planning out an expansive bike lane system that will keep cyclists safe and the entire population engaged, and setting longterm deadlines to see results.

In order for the U.S. (where only slightly more than one percent of all workers commute via bikes) to achieve the same results as countries like Denmark and Norway, we’ll need to pledge that same commitment.

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