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Autobahn shuts down to host giant "no-cars allowed" party

Autobahn was 'car-less' for hours on Sunday as more than 3 million people celebrated a cultural event on the famous highway.

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People walk and cycle along the Autobahn A40 near Essen, western Germany on July 18, 2010, where 20,000 picnic tables were lined up end-to-end after it was cleared of its usual traffic. The 40-mile-long stretch of one of Europe's busiest motorways, between the cities of Dortmund and Duisburg, became a stream of pedestrians and cyclists.

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Germany's autobahns are renowned for average speeds well in excess of 80 miles (130 kilometers) an hour. But the average dropped near zero Sunday as tens of thousands of people sat at a 37-mile table for a cultural celebration titled, appropriately enough, "Still Life."

Cars were strictly verboten.

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"Attention on the A40," a radio traffic report warned. "There is a 60-kilometer (37-mile) closure between Duisburg and Dortmund due to the longest table in the world."

A festival spokesman said an estimated three million people turned out amid fine weather, one million of them with their bicycles, to celebrate on the highway between Dortmund and Bochum, in western Germany. Tens of thousands sat at the table, which was made up of 20,000 individual tables, spokesman Oliver Haenig, said.

The highway, which crosses North Rhine-Westphalia state, is normally one of Europe's busiest.

The event was part of a wider cultural festival celebrating the Ruhr region. It was chosen by the European Union this year as a European Capital of Culture 2010 — the first time the distinction went to an area rather than a city.

Germany has no general speed limit for its famous autobahns. Cars often speed up to 125 miles per hour or more. In dense or dangerous areas, drivers are often required to slow down to 75.


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