South Korean 20-Mile Solar 'Bike Highway' Generates Electricity

This odd bike lane stands in the middle of a highway.
Derya Ozdemir

A 'bike highway' running between Daejon and Sejong in South Korea is a sight —or rather, a concept —, you surely haven't thought of before: It stretches for 20 miles (32 km), and it not only shields cyclists from the sun but also generates power at the same time.

It's true that a bicycle lane in the center of a highway is an unusual location for one, especially with three lanes of traffic on either side of it, yet it works. Much like the $3.7 million SolaRoad in the Netherlands, a 230-foot road replaced by solar panels, which powers the highway's lighting system, this bike highway is a win for green energy. Its lanes produce more than enough electricity to power the lighting of the highway and the electric vehicle charging stations, according to Fast Company.

However, in the Netherlands, bicyclists ride on top of the panels instead of under them, while South Korea's case is the opposite. Under the overhead solar panels, cyclists use subterranean tunnels to enter and exit the path, which boosts safety tremendously since they can get on and off the bikeway without being involved in the regular traffic. Once on the route, they're shielded from the traffic on each side by barriers, and while that doesn't provide pleasant roadside views, it does offer sun protection. 

This video shows the travel from Daejeon to Sejong by bike from the air:

It does its job of connecting Daejon and Sejong like any other highway but in a much more efficient and safer manner. It does have its drawbacks though with some being the noise of the highway, potential health issues related to breathing in vehicular fumes and emissions of the fast-moving cars and trucks, and the possibility of a driver hitting the barriers at some point.

Therefore, public opinion on the lanes is divided: While some think that it's a fantastic idea that represents the first move toward making similar commuting-style bike lanes in the future, some think the side of the road would be a better placement.

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Still, this highlights the potential our cement roads hold. For example, in a bid to reach 1,300GW of solar energy capacity by 2050 in the face of pollution, China also built a 1-km solar highway in the Shandong province’s capital Jinan, south of Beijing, that's capable of sending 1GWh every year to the grid. This means it can generate enough to power 800 homes, helping China in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions and create cleaner energy.