From saving money and reducing your carbon footprint, to getting fit and simply enjoying some fresh air, an increasing number of people are pushing their pedals after seeing the countless benefits that bicycle commuting has to offer. A survey by National Household Travel found that roughly four billion trips were made by bicycles in the United States alone during 2009, a number that doubled from 1.7 billion in 2001. But even those numbers pale in comparison with the popularity of commuter cycling in other cities like, Copenhagen, Barcelona and Montreal, that are catering to cyclists with the addition of bike-friendly infrastructures like cycle paths and on-road bike lanes. Factor in other variables, including geography, access to bicycles, income, city demographics and climate, and it’s easy to see why these eight cities rank among the best bike-friendly cities in the world.
8 Barcelona, Spain
Although fairly new to the cycling city scene in comparison to other bike-friendly cities throughout Europe, Barcelona is fast becoming a cycling center of Spain. Credit the city’s bike-sharing program Bicing, and the continuous addition of bike lanes and reduced speed limits to its infrastructure. Founder of the Bicycle Club of Catalonia, (BACC) Haritz Ferrando Lebraud believes these efforts have become a key “starting point to promote cycling. They begin with the public bike system and then they say now we need cycle lanes, now we need parking spaces.” Its biking network has reached nearly 100 miles of cycle lanes where roughly two-percent of its population enjoys riding in the city’s sunny and mild climate year-round.
7 Perth, Austrailia
For the number seven best bike-friendly city in the world, you’ll need to head Down Under to Perth, Australia. Western Australia’s capital city is also a central hub for the country’s thousands of cycling commuters and recreational cyclists, who flood more than 430 miles of Perth’s bike paths, cycling lanes and bike-accommodating streets. Perth boasts “one of the most extensive and advanced cycling networks in the world,” as featured by the state’s Department for Planning and Infrastructure, and plays a key role in connecting bikers in the suburbs to the city. Other perks of Perth’s bike-friendly culture include, enclosed bike parking at various train stations throughout the city, downtown bike lockers and well-marked signs along the many winding trails.
6 Basel, Switzerland
You may know Basel, Switzerland more for its medieval architecture, world-class art museums and proximity to the stunning Rhine River, but this culturally unique city is also known for its prime cycling conditions. One of the best places in Basel to kick off your biking experience is the Rent-A-Bike bike park, where you can rent a variety of bicycles, including city bikes, country bikes, mountain bikes, tandem bikes and even trailers and child seats. There are plenty of bike-friendly options for getting around the city, thanks to well-marked bicycle lanes that feature both traffic signals and turning lanes designated especially for cyclists. For its more adventurous bikers, Basel offers countless bike trails that weave throughout neighboring cities and towns. As of 2010, its city center’s dense bicycle network is composed of approximately 20-percent of the population who rely on cycling as their main mode of transportation.
5 Davis, California
This self-proclaimed “Bicycle Capital of America” has long been exactly that: a pioneer in bike-friendly advancements throughout its city, located just 11 miles west of Sacramento. Since 2006, Davis has been recognized numerous times by various biking associations, including the League of American Bicyclists that presented the city its Platinum Bicycle-Friendly Community (BFC) Award, making Davis one of only three U.S. cities with this merit. Also unique to “Bike City, USA” was its groundbreaking efforts that helped Davis become the first city in the country in 1967, to implement the now-universal bike lane, which has spread to include more than 100 miles throughout the city, across 95-percent of its major streets. There is also a 12-mile Davis Bike Loop that winds through the city’s lovely green spaces and parks, an exclusive bicycle roundabout and innovative bike safety features, such as signals and detection technology.
4 Paris, France
Securing the number four spot on the list of the best bike-friendly cities in the world, is the City of Lights. Paris has a long relationship with cycling, which dates back to the mid-1990s when getting to the city on two wheels wasn't nearly as accommodating as it is today. While pedestrians ruled the sidewalks and cars ruled the streets, cyclists were left in the dust when it came to safe, environmentally conscious transportation logistics. By 1997, however, Paris soon saw the installation of roughly 100 miles of bike lanes, which grew to about 273 miles in 2010 and is projected to increase to a near 435 miles by 2014. In addition to bike-friendly improvements in its infrastructure, Paris has also launched its own short-term bike rental service called, Vélib' that houses 20,000 bicycles throughout its 1,800 various station locations. Vélib' annual subscriptions have exceeded more than 160,000 Parisians, and the company’s daily rentals average about 100,000 bike rentals each day.
3 Montreal, Canada
With approximately 300 miles of trails catering specifically to bikers, Montreal ranks high among North America’s most bike-friendly cities. In 2013, this beautiful Canadian city came in the eleventh spot, for most bike-friendly cities in the world, according to a survey by Copenhagzine. Since establishing its first bike paths in the 1980s, Montreal has developed more than 365 miles of pedal-ready paths that receive regular traffic from commuter and recreational bikers each day. Montreal is a pioneer of Bixi, a public bike-sharing system, which has spread to a slew of other bike-friendly cities throughout the world, including London, Toronto, Melbourne and Boston. The city’s love of two-wheels, however, doesn't end at commuting; Montreal hosts regular bike-culture events, including Friction Montreal, the yearly Tour de l’Île 62-mile bike race and artist showcases that highlight bike art.
2 Portland, Oregon
The numbers are in, and Portland, Oregon sits very near the top of the list as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. The city’s residents certainly love their cycling, evident in the roughly 1/3 of people who hop aboard their bike as their primary or secondary mode of transportation to work, as reported by BikePortland.org. That is almost 10 times the U.S. national average. Portland’s Office of Transportation backs this up with statistics that denote an increase of about 28-percent in overall bicycle use. And these numbers only continue to rise, largely due to the community’s expansion of bike infrastructure that is predicted to surge to 630 miles by 2016. Low speed limits, designated cycling lanes, bike parking and a network of bicycle boulevards also make this west coast city one of the safest in the country for cyclists.
1 Copenhagen, Denmark
Topping the list of the eight best bike-friendly cities in the world is 2013’s Best City For Cyclists, according to Copenhagzine: Copenhagen, Denmark. With more than 242 miles of designated bike lanes and first-rate cycling conditions, Copenhagen has rightfully earned its rank among the best of best biking cities in the world. Here, approximately 37-percent of all daily commuters rely on bikes, spinning their wheels over about 0.75 million miles each day, topping the number of commuter cyclists in the entire United States. From cargo bikes to city cycles, there is certainly no shortage of ways to pedal around the city and, with a push from Copenhagen’s municipal council’s four-year bicycle strategy goals, the accessibility and popularity of commuter cycling is expected to rise and ensure the city continues its quest to be the best cycling city in the world.