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These are the world’s most bike-friendly cities

Laura Puttkamer




Urban cycling is on the rise, and the pandemic has seen a further increase in people taking to the road on two wheels. Benefits such as improved health, less CO2 emissions, and a better connection to the neighbourhood are undeniable. But which cities are most bike-friendly?

The Global Bicycle Index

There are different indices for finding out which cities are most bikeable. The Global Bicycle Index, for example, ranks cities according to the percentage of bicycle users; crime and safety; infrastructure; weather conditions; bike sharing opportunities; and cycling related events. Unsurprisingly, European cities top the list of bike-friendly places with high-quality bicycling infrastructure and a high number of “bikeable” days thanks to mild weather conditions.

The list of 90 cities also includes some from the Asian continent, such as Hangzhou (rank 7) and Tokyo (rank 24). Wellington makes it to rank 30 and Vancouver to rank 37. Some US American cities like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Boston are also included in the top 90 cities for cycling.  European and of those mostly German cities still dominate the list, however.

Here are some of the most bike-friendly cities in the world:

Utrecht, Netherlands

More than half of the population of Utrecht cycles. The cycling infrastructure is great, including bike parking options, as are weather conditions. This makes bicycles a very common sight in town.

Utrecht is the most bike-friendly city in the world, according to the Global Bicycle Index. Image: Unsplash

Münster, Germany

This “bike capital” of Germany has a particularly low rate for cycling fatalities. Apart from many parking opportunities for cyclists, Münster also offers regular events to promote bike riding. More than 39 per cent of residents use bikes one a daily basis.

Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerp has a city-wide bike-sharing system and about 4,000 cycling routes, awarding it a high rank in the cycling list. It is also one of the most affordable places in Europe to buy and own a bike. There are not too many dedicated cycle baths, but a strong cycling culture makes the city friendly for those favouring the bicycle.

Copenhagen, Denmark

The Danish capital is very safe for cyclists and for bikes, thanks to a low theft rate and “no car days”. Copenhagen continues to invest lots of funds in cycling infrastructure. Most residents cycle throughout the long, hard Danish winter.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Dutch capital is renown for its cycling culture. However, safety for cyclists is not the best in Amsterdam. Over 1,000 accidents per 100,000 cyclists happen every year, which is five times more than in Copenhagen. The city still scores highly.

Amsterdam is not always the safest city for cyclists, but offers great infrastructure. Image: Unsplash

Malmö, Sweden

Malmö is among the safest cities for cyclists with a very low fatality rate. This is due to high-quality infrastructure and regular events promoting safe bike riding.

Hangzhou, China

The only non-European city in the top 10 is the Chinese city Hangzhou. About 30 per cent of residents prefer the bicycle, and bike sharing rates are high.

Bern, Switzerland

The Swiss capital has invested a lot in quality cycling infrastructure. Regular “no car days”, a very low fatality rate, and high bike sharing percentages make Bern a bikeable city.

Bremen, Germany

Bremen has a very flat terrain and many cycle paths criss-crossing the cities. It also boasts a “bicycle zone” in the Neustadt with a speed limit of 30 m/h. here, bikes have priority and side-by-side cycling is allowed. The city is well connected to nearby owns through bike paths.

Cobbled streets in Bremen are less frequented by cars and popular with cyclists. Image: Unsplash

Hanover, Germany

The last city in the Global Bicycle Index’ top 10 list is Hanover, which boasts many beautiful parks. These are well connected by bike paths. Like Bremen, the terrain is flat. There are also regular “no car days”.

Other bike-friendly cities

French cities Strasbourg and Bordeaux also rank highly at 11 and 12. The highest-ranking British city in the list is Bristol (rank 15), which has low theft rates and good infrastructure. Helsinki is also on or near the top of the list for many cyclists. The Baana bicycle corridor of more than 1,200 km of bike lanes with beautiful scenery is one of the most elaborate bike infrastructures in Europe. And Oslo is another example of a Scandinavian city showing ambition in the cycling scene, investing more and more in new transport links, lanes, and networks.

In the States, cycling is also growing in popularity. Even a hilly city such as San Francisco has a reputation as being bike-friendly with high-quality cycling facilities and a good safety record. Many citizens like using the bike to escape the city, for example to admire nearby Muir Woods National Park. And in Australia, Sydney and Melbourne are leading in cycling options and good infrastructure.

Another European city where cycling is one of the most popular modes of transport is Ljubljana. The Slovenian capital has a city centre entirely free of car traffic, which makes cycling safe and relaxing. The pretty city also offers a very good bike-sharing scheme and focuses on sustainable transport in its urban development.

Read more: See all the advantages and risks of urban cycling in this article.

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