With the Tour de France well underway, we’ve got bikes on the brain—and cycling is a great way to experience a city from the ground level. Here, our round-up of the best bicycle-friendly cities to pedal around in. To tally up these locales, we looked for easily navigated, visitor-friendly streets and the findings within the Copenhagenize Index 2013, a ranking of the 150 most bike-friendly cities put out this spring by Copenhagenize, a consulting and communications company focused on cycling culture.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
It’s no surprise Amsterdam is repeatedly named as the most bike-friendly city—it deserves a spot on any bike enthusiast’s list. Cycling culture is completely mainstream in Dutch cities, and there are plenty of designated bike lanes, so less experienced cyclists don’t need to worry about cars speeding by.
Thanks to city investments in bicycling and public spaces, Seville is quickly becoming a hot bed for bikers. Central Seville’s main arterial roads are technically pedestrian-only, but permit bicyclists and horse carts, making two-wheel transportation extra easy. Elsewhere in the city, cycling is the perfect way to explore the winding lanes and sunny plazas.
Reflecting Paris’s strong commitment to an eco-friendly cycling culture, the city’s successful bike share system was the inspiration for many others popping up around Europe. Plus, the city’s signature relaxed lifestyle goes hand in hand with leisurely biking around. On Sundays and holidays, certain roads by the Seine, in the Marias, around Montmartre and elsewhere in the city are closed to cars from 9am to 5pm for the “Paris Respire,” a car-free initiative which translates to “Paris breathe.”
Strongly supported by government initiatives, Munich is continually growing its cycling culture. Biking through the city offers plenty of varied scenery, historic landmarks, the winding Isar River, busy beer gardens and the Englischer Garten, the city’s expansive public park that’s slightly larger than New York City’s Central Park.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
With next year’s World Cup and the 2016 Olympics both coming to town, Rio is amping up various city initiatives, including a bike share system. Biking culture is gaining ground with a modest network of paths throughout the city, but the real draw to cycling in this South American hub is the number of routes to the coastline. Breathtaking paths for bikers, runners and walkers stretch out to the ocean and line the coast, with some of the most popular bicycling paths found along Copacabana beach, in the neighborhoods of Barra da Tijuca and Ipanema, and circling the waters of the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.
Barcelona has all the key ingredients for enjoyable biking: a pleasant Mediterranean climate, city-wide bike sharing and wide, fully integrated cycling lanes throughout downtown. With so many diverse neighborhoods, Barcelona offers many areas primed for pedaling: palm tree-lined plazas, large pedestrian areas, small alleys winding through the Gothic district and the sun-soaked boardwalk along the beach.
Sure, we may be biased toward Boston, Go Ahead’s hometown, but the city has a quickly growing cycling culture worth exploring. Known as a spectacular walking city, the pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and modest size make Boston and nearby Cambridge particularly easy to get around on two wheels. Add in the popular bike share system and expansive outdoor spaces perfect for breaks, and it’s simple to hop from historic landmarks to harbor-side restaurants.
On the heels of Amsterdam, Copenhagen is the second city of biking culture. In fact, one-third of residents commute on bicycles as the city’s infrastructure is perfect for two-wheel transportation. Flat streets, a condensed cityscape and an expansive network of strategically designed paths make cycling very easy. From parks and beaches to castles and museums, visitors can reach most of the city’s must-see sights by bike.
Have you ever ridden a bike in a different country? Tell us about it in the comments!