Cycling makes sense for city dwellers and tourists alike. More cyclists mean less traffic and emissions and as they say, cycling runs on fat and saves you money. Cities all over the world are catching on to how beneficial investing in cycling infrastructure is, some more than others. And ok, Europe has more entries in this list than any other continent, but right now they’re just doing it better. But this isn’t to say countries outside Europe aren’t catching on!
There is stiff competition between Copenhagen and Amsterdam as to which city is the best for cyclists, but looking at the stats Copenhagen comes out on top. In the last decade, Copenhagen has invested $150 million into cycling infrastructure and facilities. Only 29% of households own a car, 62% of residents go to work or school daily on bikes with only 9% making the trip by car. What do they have to show for all these dollars and percentages? Sixteen new bridges for bikes and pedestrians. The Havneringen or Harbour Ring bicycle track which runs along the whole inner harbour, a traffic light system that prioritizes cyclists and bicycle superhighway routes.
More than just the stats Copenhagen is also a relatively flat and absolutely beautiful City best seen at your own pace, on a bike.
If you’re playing the word association game and Amsterdam comes up, depending on how filthy your friend’s minds are, bikes or cycling are likely to be early responses. Another city where the majority of residents travel on two wheels, cycling is ingrained in the culture, infrastructure and daily life of Amsterdam. There are over 500km (or 311 miles) of bike paths around the city and with more bicycles than people, you’re never far from a rental bike.
Strasbourg is the French city leading the way in cycling innovation! It has one of the best bike share systems going around, for adults and children for both long and short-term rentals, as well as over 530 km (333 miles) in bike tracks. Majority of the time, cycling is also the fastest way to get from A to B or Camembert to Brie!
There’s something about being on the water that seems to motivate European cities to invest in cycling. In Malmö, the investment goes beyond just waterfront bicycle paths and out on to the water with a bicycle ferry over to Copenhagen. Malmö’s cycling innovation also extends to accommodation. Just last year the first Cykelhuset or “Bike House” was opened. It is a residential housing complex aimed at cyclists – no car parking spaces attached.
More than just cycling as a means of transport, Berlin has some beautiful long-distance cycling trails that are a destination in themselves. You can cycle along the length of the Berlin Wall or take the trail from Berlin to Copenhagen. If your cycling goal is just to get from A to B you are still covered with over 620 km (385 miles) of cycle paths around the city.
One of the bigger Belgian cities and also one that has really got behind cycling culture, Antwerp has kept up with advancements in cycling infrastructure. Embraced by cyclists of all ages and socioeconomic background, Antwerp has an excellent bike share system that extends beyond the city centre and an impressive number of bike parking stations. If you’re wanting to ride around for leisure then head down to the harbour and take a ride along the wide, protected cycle track.
The City of Love is having its own love affair with cycling! The number of everyday cyclists is increasing and the Council of Paris has predicted that 15% of all trips will be made on a bicycle by 2020. Like many of the cities on the list, Paris has a good bike share system, that also has bikes for children so the whole family can ride together. Paris also has a few bike festivals each year, if you’re on the hunt for other bike enthusiasts on your travels.
The best city for cyclists outside Europe, Tokyo, has had a complicated relationship with cycling. Despite a lack of government initiative to promote cycling in Tokyo, it prevails because it just makes sense. So many of the neighbourhoods in Tokyo are compact and self-contained, they lend well to bicycles for short trips. Without even trying Japan has reached 14% of all trips being made on a bike, it is part of the culture. So if you want the real Tokyo experience, grab a helmet and get pedalling!
Back in the EU, Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities to explore on a bike. Barcelona has fully integrated bicycle paths and a number of stunning parks you can also cycle through. Another city with a good bicycle share system, cycling is definitely the cheapest and simplest way to get around. Public transport can become quite expensive and complicated as you change from tram to metro, funicular to taxi in order to reach your destination.
With 1,200 km (745 miles) of bikes paths running through and around the city, there are few places in Helsinki that can’t be reached on a bike. Best visited in the warmer months when the paths are free of snow, all you need to do is download the Bike Citizens navigation map for the best routes to see all the cities most popular sites.
The relatively small capital city, Oslo, was the first European city to declare its plans for a permanent ban on cars in its centre by 2019. Ambitious, sure but also necessary. Oslo has seen a large increase in its population over the last few decades leading to increasing congestion in the City. To combat this, as well as to reduce greenhouse emissions, Oslo has turned to developing cycling infrastructure. Many of the paths extend well beyond the city. So once you’ve seen all the city sites take a path out of town and enjoy the green countryside.
There are more ways to encourage cyclists than just infrastructure. I’m not saying Montreal doesn’t have good cycling infrastructure, but it does a lot more for cyclists than just putting in bike lanes. Biking culture is a way of life in Montreal, there are cycling cafes and film festivals, Bike-In parties and the Go Bike Montreal festival. During the festival, roads are closed to traffic across the island for cycle centred activities and just for fun races. If your main cycling purpose is function rather than fun you’ll also find that the 645 KM (400 miles) of cycle paths on the island get you where you need to go.
Portland, Oregon, USA
The power of the people, and more notably the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, is what makes Portland the cycle-friendly city it is today. Petitions, court cases and the determination of the cycling community in Portland have resulted in safer commutes and better cycling infrastructure across the city. Bicycle use in Portland is 10 times the national average of the USA with 6% of commuters making their journey to work on a bike.
This relatively flat, coastal city is the most progressive cycle city in Australia and has some ambitious plans for the future. At current 16% of the vehicles entering the CBD each day are bicycles, by 2020 Melbourne aims to increase that percentage to 25%. It is a great place to start if you’re wanting to take your cycle adventure out on the open road. You can take the scenic Great Ocean Road, one of the most gorgeous coastal drives in the world or head inland and cycle through lush rainforests. . When driving in the city or anywhere in the state of Victoria, Australia, make sure you wear a helmet. Victoria was the first state to implement a Mandatory Helmet Legislation, in 1990, and if you’re caught without one you’ll likely be fined.
Cars, buses and the subway are definitely still the preferred method of transport in Beijing but plenty of locals still get from A to B on a bike. The city has a pretty extensive network of bike paths throughout but safety is still an issue, so if you’re taking your bike out on the main road, please wear a helmet. If you’re after a bike there is a bike share system but buying second-hand bikes, from one of the many vendors, seems to be the way to go. If you have any problems with the bike there are also hundreds of bike repair shops around the city to help get you back on your way.
Do you disagree with the list? Let me know what city you think is the best for cyclists in the comment section below. Or start planning your next cycle adventure here.