Well South Korea certainly knows how to get attention for its bike lanes. Just cover them with solar panels and stick them smack in the middle of a busy highway. Why it’s an idea we’re surprised we didn’t see somewhere on the West Coast, namely California, first.
South Korea’s new solar panel covered bike lane spans 20 miles between the cities of Daejeon and Sejong, and it’s right in down the median of a six-lane highway. At first it might seem like a great way for cyclists to get from point A to point B safely while generating some electricity. Not to mention it provides shade for cyclists and protects them from rain. But then you have to wonder if those two-wheeled commuters might need a gas mask due to all the car fumes they are sure to be riding through on their route. After all, pollution levels can’t be great in the middle of a highway. There are other safety considerations, too, like the potential for accidents should surrounding traffic veer into the median area.
The drone video below shows just how massive the project is and around 1:13 in the clip you’ll actually see cyclists using it.
There is also a solar bike path in the Netherlands, but it’s nowhere near the same in scope and size. The Dutch SolaRoad project integrates solar panels into the path, and by that we mean cyclists actually ride over them. It’s also not in a high traffic area like a highway. It’s located on a special roadway outside Amsterdam. Energy from the panels is funneled into the national energy grid.
The company behind those energy-producing panels, which are installed in pre-built concrete slabs, says it took years of testing to build slabs that were both durable and rideable by thousands of cyclists a day.
“It has to be translucent for sunlight and repel dirt as much as possible,” the company says. “At the same time, the top layer must be skid resistant and strong enough in order to realize a safe road surface.”
Meanwhile, here in the U.S., Idaho-based Solar Roadways recently raised $2.2 million dollars in an Indiegogo campaign. The company, which is founded by Scott and Julie Brusaw, aims to build roads with connected blocks embedded with LED lights and solar panels. Solar Roadways has received two rounds of funding from the Federal Highway Administration. It’s still in the research and development phase.