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Car-free future: Europe’s longest cycle tunnel aims to cut traffic in this Norwegian city

Artwork and installations line the tunnel in Bergen.
Artwork and installations line the tunnel in Bergen. Copyright Iver Daaland Åse / Bybanen Utbygging
Copyright Iver Daaland Åse / Bybanen Utbygging
By Angela Symons
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Bergen's pedestrian and bike tunnel is now open to the public.

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Norway's Bergen has opened the world’s longest purpose-built pedestrian and bicycle tunnel.

The 2.9km tunnel opened to the public with a tunnel race and bicycle race on 15 April. It takes around 10 minutes to cycle through and 30 to 45 minutes to walk through.

Known as the Fyllingsdalstunnelen, the tunnel cuts through the Løvstakken mountain in the southwest Norwegian city, linking the residential areas of Fyllingsdalen and Mindemyren. Cyclists can continue on to the centre of Bergen using existing routes.

Iver Daaland Åse / Bybanen Utbygging
Bergen's new tunnel has lanes for cyclists and pedestrians.Iver Daaland Åse / Bybanen Utbygging

Both the Fyllingsdal tunnel and the rest of the cycle route to Bergen city centre are financed through the municipality’s state-supported Miljøløftet (Environmental Promise).

Its goal is to make it easier for more people to choose cycling and walking over driving. Not only could this help reduce traffic in the city, it could also help cut planet-heating emissions and unhealthy pollution.

The route’s total distance - from Fyllingsdalen to Festplassen in the city centre - is 7.8 kilometres, which takes around 25 minutes by bike. Currently, cycling between these areas takes around 40 minutes.

Iver Daaland Åse / Bybanen Utbygging
The tunnel was opened by Bergen's Commissioner for Climate, Environment and Urban Development Ingrid Nergaard, County Mayor Jon Askeland and road director Ingrid Dahl Hovland.Iver Daaland Åse / Bybanen Utbygging

Will the tunnel really be the longest in the world?

Bergen’s cycle tunnel has been touted as the world’s longest - but it comes with some caveats.

The Snoqualmie Tunnel near Seattle, USA, is 3.6km long. However, it takes over an abandoned railway tunnel, so was not built for purpose.

The Fyllingsdal cycle tunnel is therefore the world’s second longest overall, and the longest that was built for purpose.

Running parallel to the new light rail line that opened in November, the tunnel doubles as an escape route for train passengers. 

"In order to get approval for the light rail tunnel, it had to have an escape tunnel," explains Vestland County Mayor Jon Askeland. To get further use out of the tunnel, the county decided to make it bike and pedestrian friendly.

"The cool thing is that we are utilising necessary infrastructure, such as an escape tunnel, to create new connections and shortcuts between neighbourhoods," adds Mayor Askeland.

Supported by government investment, dedicated pedestrian and cycle lanes - 2.5 and 3.5 metres wide respectively - were included in its design.

"By creating a walkway here, it is also possible to exercise... So it is public health in every metre of this tunnel," says project manager Arild Tveit.

Bybanen Utbygging
Artwork and installations line the tunnel in Bergen.Bybanen Utbygging

What hours will the Fyllingsdal tunnel be open?

The tunnel is open from 5.30am to 11.30pm daily. It features well-lit rest stops and security cameras throughout. Emergency phones are available every 250 metres. 

Colourful dynamic lighting will create a wave of light when a cyclist or pedestrian enters the tunnel at either end, alerting cyclists to oncoming traffic. It is also lined with artwork and installations to make the journey more interesting. 

It will be kept at a constant temperature of 7 degrees Celsius, making it an attractive training route for runners on colder days.

The opening ceremony was marked with a tunnel race on Saturday followed by a bicycle parade on Sunday.

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Iver Daaland Åse / Bybanen Utbygging
The tunnel's opening was marked with a bicycle parade.Iver Daaland Åse / Bybanen Utbygging

How else is Bergen leading on climate initiatives?

This isn't the first time that Vestland County has blazed the trail for environmental initiatives.

The county leads the way in electric vehicle use and infrastructure in Norway. It was also the first to introduce electric ferries and is currently working on electrifying its passenger boats, with a goal of slashing emissions by 85 per cent.

Bergen also recently played host to the first annual One Ocean Week. The event saw politicians, researchers, business and youth activists come together to advocate for sustainability in the world's oceans - a cause close to the city's heart.

"In Western Norway, we have always lived by and off the sea," says Mayor Askeland. "We know that sustainable management of ocean resources is crucial to creating a greener and more circular world." 

By linking our strong marine research with our traditions of innovation, trade and exports, we see the opportunities in the green shift."

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The county is also aiming to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030.

Watch the video above to see inside Bergen's new tunnel.

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