The ever-progressive country of the Netherlands has, yet again, won the race of futuristic ideas turned into reality. The country has unveiled the world’s first ever solar bike lane, set to open for use on November 12, 2014. So basically, if the rest of the world wants to catch up, they have about 2 days to plan, construct, and open a fully functional solar paneled roadway for public use. Although, seeing as most other countries can’t even manage to keep pace with the advanced social and legal systems of the happily liberal Netherlands, I’m thinking we will be left in the dust on this one as well. Aptly named SolaRoad by the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), the pathway connects the Amsterdam suburbs of Krommenie and Wormerveer. You may remember Amsterdam from your days of backpacking through Europe, or your dreams of a utopian city where everything is legal and nobody is mad about it. It’s almost impressive how the US has managed to lag behind for so long.
In 2001, for example, the Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage. Yet, here we are in America, nearly 14 years later, still dilly-dallying over the most basic of human rights. Perhaps if we would employ just a fraction of the social tolerance of the Netherlands, then we too could spend our time on more exciting things like crafting virtually indestructible pathways that harness the power of the sun. I’m thinking we could just take all our stupid calculators and pave some roads with those, because who needs math when you have the Netherlands over there being all ingenious about everything? I say we round up all the Texas Instruments and use that solar power for something good, instead of giving us rage headaches in high school geometry classes.
In addition to being generally better than the rest of us at literally everything, the Netherlands is not showing any signs of slowing it’s roll into their highly sustainable and awesome future. Granted, this solar bike path is only 70 meters long, it’s merely the first step into a huge plan. The local government anticipates expanding to 100 meters by 2016, and has other complimentary projects in order to achieve their ultimate goal of powering everything from traffic lights to electric cars with solar energy. SolaRoad is slightly tilted in order to keep rain water and debris from settling and interfering with the solar cells, and since it’s on the ground it will generate roughly 30% less energy than solar roof panels. The gains are immense, though, and will inevitably save the country a fortune on energy costs. An estimated average of 2,000 cyclists are expected to use the SolaRoad each day, predominantly made up of commuters and children traveling to and from school. Since bicycles are a big part of the green movement, I propose we begin our network of solar roads in Portland, since that’s one of the few places in America where people seem to care about energy efficiency. Plus, they would name it something hilarious like the Sunshine Lane.