October 31st, 2012 by James Ayre
Heated bike paths are currently being considered as a solution to winter snow cover in some regions of the Netherlands. Such paths would result in drier, easier bike commutes during the winter… and likely increased biking during that time of the year. On the other hand, they also seem like an extravagant waste of energy to some, but compared to what? There are already considerable human and economic resources put into salting roads during the winter, and this practice also has many negative environmental impacts. Maybe heated bike lanes could be an improvement over current practices? They could also get more people out of cars, which would be a big plus.
In a new report from the Netherlands De Telegraaf news site, the Dutch Cyclists Union has been enthusiastically endorsing the possibility of roadways being warmed up by heated underground pipes. According to them, this would result in more bicyclists choosing to ride during the winter, and would reduce accidents caused by snowy and icy roads. It would also help to keep more cars off the roadways.
Currently, the province of Utrecht is considering these passively-warmed bike lanes, and also the town of Zutphen.
“The cost is estimated to be between U.S. $25 – 50,000 per kilometer of heated bike path. Marcel Boerefijn of the engineering firm Tauw said in one news report that the pipes for the heated bike paths would have to run as deep as 50 meters down, which is why the cost per kilometer of lane is so high. Heat generated during the summer months would be collected and stored, and used to de-ice and warm the paths in the winter.”
As Boerefijn notes, though, even though the installation costs may be high, they will likely lead to cost savings. This is primarily because of less money being spent on the salt and straw used on roads during winter, but also because of reduced accident costs.
This is the sort of technology that could potentially be more effective/efficient/cheaper than current practices, but that because of common misperceptions may never be adopted. I’m undecided on it myself, waiting to see it put into practice on a small scale to observe the effects. What do you think?
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