A snowy, icy winter. Great for skiing, terrible for bicycling. But if you live in certain towns in the Netherlands, winter commuting may be getting a lot easier.
Engineer Marcel Boerefijn, from the Tauw engineering consultancy, has proposed heating the country’s bike lanes with geo-thermal energy. Not to the warmth of a luxury heated bathroom floor, of course, but just enough to keep ice from forming.
While the proposal is expensive (a whopping-sounding $30,000 to 60,000-ish per mile), Boerefijn maintains that the plan would ultimately save money. "There would be lots of savings: less salt to melt the ice, less medical costs because of accidents and fewer car expenses because people would rather travel by bike," he said.
Arien de Jong, a spokeswoman for the Dutch Cyclists Unions, underscored the safety aspects of the plan. “[Heated paths] could prevent so much misery. If cycle lanes are frozen over for four weeks, that results in about 7,000 more accidents involving cyclists.”
And many have pointed out that this could, ultimately, be a more environmentally conscious choice, given runoff problems with salting roads.
Mind you, the Netherlands is a country with 18 million bicycles—and fewer than 17 million people, so investing in bike lanes makes a lot of sense. And Europe in general is moving toward advancing bike lanes (London is even considering elevating them). Now if only the U.S. would take notice…