• Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

World’s longest purpose-built cycling tunnel opens in Norway

World's longest purpose-built cycling tunnel opens in Norway

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There are many ways to explore the seven mountains that surround the picturesque UNESCO World Heritage city of Bergen on Norway’s fjord-studded west coast. The newest, however, might well be record-breaking.

A three-kilometer-long (1.8-mile) cycling and pedestrian tunnel has been blasted through the base of Løvstakken mountain and its makers say it’s the longest purpose-built tunnel of its kind.

Fyllingsdalstunnelen, as it’s known, opened on April 15 with a family day of sporting activities, following four years of construction that began in February 2019. The state-funded mega-project cost close to $29 million, or 300 million Norwegian kroner.

“We Norwegians are usually modest people,” Camilla Einarsen Heggernes, a spokesperson for rail company Bybanen Utbygging, tells CNN, “But in this instance we would say that the tunnel is 100% state of the art.”

When you see this sundial, you'll know you're halfway through.

It takes a little under 10 minutes to whizz through the tunnel by bike and around 40 if strolling by foot. To break up the monotony of the windowless tunnel, there are a variety of art installations throughout, as well as different colors and lighting to help users place where they are on the journey and offer a sense of direction.

At the center point is a “sundial” installation – where the sun definitely will never shine – which shows the time of day, again helping to orientate visitors and also to break up the otherwise long line of sight. The tunnel is otherwise perfectly straight, apart from slight curvatures at entrance and exit.

If you’re wondering how cyclists and pedestrians can use the same space, there are two lanes in the tunnel: a 3.5-meter wide bike lane and a 2.5-meter-wide lane for walkers and runners. “We have laid down a blue rubber flooring throughout the tunnel, similar to an athletic track, explains Einarsen Heggernes. “This makes it more pleasant to use than if one would just walk on asphalt.”

The tunnel was constructed in parallel with a new tram line.

The new tunnel came about as a byproduct of Bergen’s second Bybanen tram line, which opened in November 2022. The tram line through the mountain required a parallel evacuation tunnel, so the developers decided to make the new tunnel multipurpose.

Bergen is Norway’s second-largest city and the port city is linked to Oslo, the Norwegian capital, by the 496-kilometer Bergensbanen railway line. This stunning rail journey crosses Europe’s largest high mountain plateau, the Hardangervidda, and its snow-clad vistas were the backdrop for the battle scenes in the “Star Wars” sequel “The Empire Strikes Back.”

While the Fyllingsdalstunnelen is pitching itself as the world’s longest purpose-built cycle tunnel, the reason for that caveat is the 3.6-kilometer-long Snoqualmie Tunnel in Washington, just east of Seattle. This former train tunnel is now a passageway for cyclists, runners and walkers and is part of the 250-mile Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail.

Six European cities made it in CNN Travel’s recent roundup of 10 of the world’s most bike-friendly cities. Copenhagen has 385 kilometers of bike lanes, having introduced its first one way back in 1892. Strasbourg in France has around 6,000 bikes available at self-service stations 24/7 which tourists can use. And the Swiss capital of Bern has a exhilarating downhill trail for riders who feel the need for speed. The best bit is that cyclists can get a funicular up to the top then ride down – no uphill struggle.

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