I took up biking about a year ago, partly because I needed a new hobby and partly because I needed a way to work out that I didn't absolutely hate (running and I? We just don't get along). I still pretty much exclusively bike on the trail by my apartment, though, because I'm absolutely terrified to take my wheels on the actual road. Maybe I should consider moving to Europe — that's apparently where most of the best bicycling cities in the world are. Urban design consultancy Copehnagenize creates a ranking of the most bike-friendly places across the globe every other year, and, well… let's just say there aren't many surprises.
It's perhaps unsurprising that almost all of the winning cities are European; getting around via bicycle has been a huge tradition across the pond for generations. In fact, only three of the cities aren't European — Buenos Aires at number 14, Minneapolis at number 18, and Montreal at number 20. To be honest, I'm a little ashamed of the U.S. right now; in 2011, three American cities made the list: Portland at 13 (by which I'm assuming they mean Oregon, rather than Maine), San Francisco at 17, and New York at 20. I love that Minneapolis found its way aboard for the first time this year — it's a good reminder that there are good biking cities beyond the usual suspects — but I can't help but wonder what happened over the past five years to shrink our already-minimal number of bike-friendliest cities from three down to one. I mean, I realize that most of North America just isn't built for bicycles in the same way that Europe is… but still.
Ah well. Can't win 'em all, I suppose. At least we still have these bike-happy cities, right?
In any event, here are the top 10 cities for biking worldwide; head on over to Copenhagenize's website to see the full list of all 20.
1. Copenhagen, Denmark
I'll admit that at first I was a little skeptical of the fact that Copenhagen took the top slot, given that the ranking was determined by a Copenhagen-based company. But although it's scored quite highly since the ranking began, this is the first year it's won the top prize, so at least there's that. Apparently the city is constantly investing in new infrastructure, and according to Business Insider, it's often easier to bike in Copenhagen than it is to drive in it.
2. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam may have been dethroned this year — it took the top slot in both 2011 and 2013 — but number two isn't exactly terrible. Copenhagenize chalks its drop to second place up to the fact that “Amsterdam, like most Dutch cities, suffers from their insistence on maintaining a status quo, rather than trying to improve, think modern, and take things to the next level.” That said, though, it's still “one of the world's benchmark cities for cycling” — and somewhat hilariously, there are actually more bikes than people in Amsterdam.
3. Utrecht, Netherlands
Utrecht comes in at number three for the second time in a row, with things like its “Utrecht Attractive and Accessible” development plan and the fact that the world's largest bike parking facility is under construction granting it that honor. The cobblestones laid throughout the city, however, can make biking difficult at times.
4. Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg is new to the list this year, although Copenhagenize calls it “the premier cycling city in France” and “the yardstick that all other cities have — often reluctantly — measured themselves by.” 536 kilometers of cycling routes in the city make biking the easiest and fastest way to get around, and the bike share system is apparently phenomenal.
5. Eindhoven, Netherlands
If you're a fan of “no-nonsense consistency,” you'll probably love biking in Eindhoven. The Dutch city opened a floating bicycle roundabout in 2012, which has cemented its place as one of the top innovators in bike-friendliness.
6. Malmö, Sweden
Malmö jumped from number nine in 2013 to number six this year, showing that the city's efforts at improving the bike system have paid off. It also has one of my favorite behavioral campaigns of all time, mostly due to its name — it's called No Ridiculous Car Trips. The gist of it is basically this: If your car trip will be stupidly short, don't take it — find another way to get there, instead. Because it is ridiculous. Biking, for example, is an excellent alternative!
7. Nantes, France
This French city may have slipped one slot this year — it ranked at number six in 2013 — but given that it didn't make the list at all in 2011 and then shot up to the top 10 is still pretty impressive. According to Copenhagenize, Nantes has made a concerted effort to calm traffic, and it's well on its way to making biking the fastest, most efficient way to get from point A to point B. Well done!
8. Bordeaux, France
Between all these French and Dutch cities, there seems to be quite a trend at work when it comes to the best biking cities in the world. Bordeaux dropped a few places from number five last year, largely, says Copenhagenize, because its momentum backed off a little bit — but it's still nothing to sneeze at. The infrastructure and facilities are apparently fantastic, although it seems that there's room to grow in terms of how the city markets cycling — to the mainstream, as opposed to sub-cultures.
9. Antwerp, Belgium
I went to Antwerp once when I was a kid, but unfortunately all I remember about it is that it had a fantastic zoo. It seems, however, that it's also the best large city in Belgium for cyclist, with its train station bike parking being particularly noteworthy. However, cars are also on the rise, which might put a damper on its bike-friendly spirit.
10. Seville, Spain
According to Copenhagenize, what makes Seville remarkable is the fact that it was able to re-integrate bicycles into the city's transportation system in a relatively short amount of time. It still has plenty of room to grow — better infrastructure to support cycling citywide is needed, for example — but it's a start.