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Berlin's annual cycling takeover Fahrradsternfahrt, in 2015. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Berlin Is Planning New Bicycle Superhighways

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Berlin's annual cycling takeover Fahrradsternfahrt, in 2015. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Berlin is planning on reinventing itself as one of the world’s great cycling cities. According to CityLab, the German capital is working on new bicycle superhighways that will likely be constructed along disused railway tracks.

Famously cycling-friendly cities like Copenhagen have been working on bicycle highways for years, giving cyclists long stretches of road to pedal safely and quickly, segregated from cars and with a minimum of delays for red lights. Other metropolises are following suit: Paris plans to have 28 miles of bike highways by 2020, and London opened up the first leg of its own superhighway last year.

Hoping to encourage people to get out of their cars and onto their bikes, Berlin began by looking at 30 feasible cycling routes in the city, focusing on routes of more than three miles. These potential highways will need to be 13 feet wide or more to allow people to pass each other, though sections that only have one-way traffic will be closer to 10 feet wide. The idea is that cyclists shouldn't have to stop for intersections or traffic lights for more than 30 seconds per kilometer (or about every half mile).

The Berlin Senate Department for Environment, Transport, and Climate Change has settled on 12 final corridors for the bike network, and is now conducting feasibility studies to decide how to move forward. The first of these studies—on an old Prussian railway route that ran between Berlin and Potsdam—will be available at the end of March. Studies on two other routes are expected by the end of 2017.

When completed, Berlin’s cycle network will be just a small part of Germany’s larger bike-friendly infrastructure upgrades. The Radschnellweg, a 13-foot-wide bike highway that will run 62 miles through 10 cities, is already under construction.

[h/t CityLab]

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Courtesy of CURIOUS GEORGE is a production of Imagine, WGBH, and Universal. Curious George and related characters, created by Margret and H.A. Rey, are copyrighted and trademarked by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company and using under license. Licensed by UNIVERSAL STUDIOS LICENSING LLC. Television series: (c) 2015 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.
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How a Makeshift Bicycle Saved Curious George From the Nazis
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Courtesy of CURIOUS GEORGE is a production of Imagine, WGBH, and Universal. Curious George and related characters, created by Margret and H.A. Rey, are copyrighted and trademarked by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company and using under license. Licensed by UNIVERSAL STUDIOS LICENSING LLC. Television series: (c) 2015 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.

Curious George, the beloved star of children’s literature, might not exist if not for an empty bicycle shop and a handy artist.

As a new video from Great Big Story explains, the cartoon monkey was the brainchild of Hans and Margret Rey, a Jewish-German couple who lived in Rio de Janeiro in the 1930s. The two pet monkeys that the writer/illustrator duo kept there soon became the inspiration for a character they called Fifi: an impish, inquisitive monkey.

The Reys later moved to Paris, but when the Nazis invaded France, they were forced to flee, taking their manuscripts with them. When they tried to make their escape, though, they discovered that no more trains were leaving the city.

The desperate couple located a bicycle store, only to find no available bikes. Making do with what was available, Hans Rey used spare parts to jerry-rig two makeshift bikes to carry them—and the story of the monkey who would later become Curious George—to Lisbon, Portugal, where a ship to New York awaited them.

Hear the amazing true story of the Reys' journey (and learn how Fifi evolved into the George we know today) by watching the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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The Netherlands Is Paving Its Roads With Recycled Toilet Paper
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iStock

There are plenty of bike lanes in the notoriously pro-cycling country that is the Netherlands, but only one is made of toilet paper. In the country's northwest province of Friesland, a 0.6-mile bike path connecting two towns is the first to be paved with recycled toilet paper, according to CityLab.

The TP helps maintain traction on slippery roads, as one expert told CityLab. The recycled toilet paper is used to add cellulose into open-graded asphalt friction course (OGFC), a type of water-permeable blacktop. This type of paving material is better at draining water, an especially important characteristic for surfaces in the Netherlands, where flood control is a necessary precaution. The cellulose helps stabilize the mixture that makes up the asphalt, known as OGAF. The recycling technology used to build the bike lane was developed by the Dutch consultants KNN and the wastewater tech company CirTec.

Two men stand on a paving machine in front of an asphalt bike lane.

There are plenty of materials that contain cellulose, but paving roads is a pretty good use for the one type of recycled cellulose that can’t be incorporated into a lot of other products: the kind that comes into regular contact with poop.

The recycled toilet paper in this case is collected during wastewater processing, where it’s separated out from all that excrement and then sterilized, bleached, and dried for reuse. People tend to not want to come in contact with things that have touched poop, though, so no amount of sterilization makes it OK to turn the product into recycled napkins or other paper products. But since toilet paper is typically a source of high-quality cellulose fibers (from wood chips or recycled paper), it would be a shame to waste it. Hence the pavement, which is mixed at such high temperatures that the manufacturing process would kill off any remaining pathogens that might possibly lurk within the post-treatment TP.

Friesland’s toilet paper asphalt has been around for about a year now, and according to CityLab writer Tiffany R. Jansen, it looks almost identical to the rest of the bike path. The toilet paper-laced asphalt has since been used to pave a parking lot and a dyke in the region, too.

As long as we’re wiping our butts with paper, we might as well recycle the results. Yes, toilet paper grows on trees, but that doesn’t mean we should waste it. Though the cellulose from the toilet paper only makes up about 5 percent of the pavement mixture with this technology, it’s still a good way to make a dent in city waste. Until everyone gets on the bidet train, that is.

[h/t CityLab]

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