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The World’s Longest Solar Cycle Path Works Well in Utrecht

By Adam Marsal

Cycling is already one of the most environmentally friendly means of transport. But in the Dutch city of Maartensdijk in the Utrecht region, authorities went even one step further – they created the world’s longest cycle path, and it also generates sustainable electric energy!

With its total length of 300 metres, the solar segment of the public cycle path consists of concrete blocks with a thin translucent layer that enables sunlight to get right into the solar panels inside. The generated energy from the road is enough to cover the power consumption of 40 households. And it’s not the only solar cycle lane in the country. You can find one in Krommenie, north of Amsterdam, and a second in Haaksbergen. Yet the one in Maartensdijk is the longest.

In the Netherlands, with limited land reserves, people do their best to make use of every inch of the ground. When solar panels can be incorporated into the cycle paths, more cultivatable soil remains available for agricultural purposes. In the Netherlands, they call it double-use policy. The solar cycle path is a perfect example of a design that helps to reduce carbon emissions. You could say that the Dutch cycle path solution has killed two birds with one stone.

The pilot project aims to develop a wide network of dual-use roads that will help Utrecht province in its goal to become climate neutral by 2040. According to provincial official Arne Schaddelee, the country needs to be innovative to reach its targets. “The solar cycle path fits within our policy to make the road infrastructure more sustainable and to use fewer fossil fuels,” she said. The cycle lane was built in collaboration between Utrecht province and the constructing company Strukton. Because of the materials used, the cycle lane is safe and easily maintained.

Students at the local elementary school were the first to ride across the solar road. The eleven-year-old cyclist Machiel van Leeuwen told journalists that the road is good for the environment and that he prefers to have solar panels on the roads rather than fields. Because the cost of the project exceeded 1.3 million euros, similar roads are unlikely to be built in the near future. But if the technologies progress and the solutions prove to be a success, the price will come down with mass production. We hope to see more of them, and not only in the Netherlands.