German bicycle highway
Cyclists enjoy the first five-kilometre stretch of a bicycle highway that is set to span over 100km in western GermanyGetty Images

In what can be called a green urban transport initiative, Germany has paved the way for a smooth ride for bicyclists. The country has just opened its first highway that is exclusively for bicycle riders in the Ruhr region situated in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The 5km-long highway is a small stretch in Germany's 100km bicycle highway plan. The newly-launched public road is a huge respite for riders who will not face traffic and heavy vehicles while on the go.

The highway caters to almost two million people who live within 2km of the route. It is expected to take about 50,000 cars off the roads every day, AFP reported.

The bicycle highway, pioneered in the Netherlands and Denmark, is gaining a grip in other German cities as well, including Frankfurt, Munich, Nuremberg and the capital Berlin.

The planned 100km route will connect 10 western German cities including Duisburg, Bochum and Hamm and four universities, the report said. Officials said that talks with the state government for funding the project were in process.

"Without (state) support, the project would have no chance," Martin Toennes of the regional development group RVR was quoted as saying in the report. Birgit Kastrup, in charge of the Munich bicycle highway project, said that the concept is new in Germany and that "a new concept for funding them" must be found.

Bicycling associations are urging that at least 10% of federal transport funding be used towards developing infrastructure for bicycle travel, which accounts for 10% of total commuting in the country. "Building highways in cities is a life-threatening recipe from the 1960s. No one wants more cars in cities," Burkhard Stork, manager of the German Bicycle Club ADFC, said.