In the age of the pandemic, smart cities around the world are finding bicycles as the best mode of travel. Yes, of course, it is! Only one individual travels through one bicycle. There is no need for a license.
There are extremely fewer chances of accidents. And beyond that, it gives you an invaluable option to stay safe and maintain social distance. Perhaps, this is not always possible when you travel through a car, bus or train.
People are now realizing the value of bicycles more than ever. Cities are rapidly adopting policies and widening roads to make way for bicycles. They are learning from the bicycle capitals of the world – which mostly reside in Europe.
Going by the latest Copenhagenize Index of ‘World’s Top 20’, we have listed the top 10 bike-friendly cities in Europe. We have excluded some European cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam that are already world-famous for their bike-friendly nature.
The index ranks smart cities not just on facilities and infrastructure. It also includes the city’s position in the adoption of cargo bikes, political measures, bike-sharing programmes and more. So, here are the 10 most bike-friendly cities – some are less known. We hope other parts of the world emulate their bicycling habits!
Bicycling is in the DNA of Utrecht in the Netherlands. The city built its first bike lane in 1885. Since then, there is no looking back. Today, more than 125,000 people travel to work, school and stations using bikes. These include even politicians who are prioritising bicycles over cars.
Utrecht is building ‘fast lanes’ for e-bikes, deploying smart traffic signals, and expanding bicycle parking capacity. The aim is to achieve double the number of cyclists by 2030. The city is constructing a two-story bicycle parking space – the world’s largest. This will add to its 22,0000 bicycle parks. Private investors are committing to building extra 11,000 parking spaces by 2020.
Antwerp in Belgium invites citizens and tourists to explore the city on a bicycle. Its bicycling network and infrastructure keep improving year after year. The city has over 500 km of safe bicycle paths used by people every day. People easily get a bike on a sharing basis and they also get tips on where to rent a bicycle. Antwerp also offers a cycle map on PC and smartphone to add to a convenient and easy cycling experience.
Currently, the city is focusing on the ‘Bicycle Plan.’ This involves improving traffic-light management intending to decrease the speed limit to 30kph on 95% of all routes. It is also making an investment in expanding bicycle parking at train stations.
Strasbourg in France is the leading bike-friendly city of the country. The city is making its best efforts by encouraging cyclists and modernizing the existing network. The city and the citizens are working together to push cars out of roads.
It is also extending cycle highways to the surrounding suburbs while bringing in cargo bikes. More than 16% of the residents cycle to work and half of them are female. If you visit the city, you’ll find municipal workers, delivery, and other citizens using cargo bikes for daily jobs.
Bremen is the first city in Germany to introduce the concept of bicycle streets. The city owns 674km of physically divided cycle tracks that enable residents to ride with convenience each day.
In its latest ‘Green Mobility Plan 2018’, it has committed to growing its bicycle network. One of the major initiatives includes eight premium cross-city cycle routes to achieve by 2025. Newly, it also announced an investment of €2.4 million in the ‘bicycle district.’ It is working on dedicated bicycle streets and increasing bicycle parking space in the ‘Weser bicycle district.’
Another city from France, Bordeaux is showing rapid development than in the past. Having a bicycle modal share of 13%, you can see both men and women riding bikes as their common mode of travel.
The city has tested a number of bicycle innovations, such as the local concept of the bicycle street. It also built 100 cargo-bike parking spots as part of its urban development. Today, it is offering citizens 200 e-bikes for city employees to use.
Ljubljana, a small city in Slovenia has 300 km of cycling paths enjoyed by riders of all ages. Bicycling is the main transport for many with the city’s bicycle modal share of 13%. Cyclists are allowed to ride in the pedestrian zone but with pedestrians’ safety in mind.
The city has the ‘Ljubljana Bicycle’, a bicycle rental project for tourists and visitors introduced by Ljubljana tourism. It also has service stations for bicycle repair and for inflating tires built in front of the Ljubljana tourism information point.
In recent years, traffic congestion in Barcelona has been rising. However, the Spanish city is taking appropriate measures to ban cars in specific areas and introduce more bicycle lanes.
Three decades ago, Barcelona had no bike infrastructure and almost no cyclists. However, after that, it introduced 200 km of bike lanes and 200,000 cyclists. The latest Urban Mobility Plan is striving to increase the number by adding 108 km of the new cycling network. The city intends that 89% of residents live within 300 meters of a bike lane.
Vienna, the capital of Austria is increasingly improving its bicycle ecosystem. For years, residents have been able to rent free cargo bikes for daily short trips. The city also has a direct subsidy scheme that has facilitated the purchase of over 300 cargo bikes for the local businesses.
In the last two years, the city put in place 5,000 bicycle parking spaces. It also addressed the need to have new best practice cycle tracks on Getreidemarkt. The city continues to make an investment in on-street bicycling infrastructure. The capital city is using innovative and constructive communication and policies to improve its bicycle ecosystem.
With the introduction of world-class bicycle infrastructure and maintenance practices, Helsinki is on the road to becoming a ‘Future Cycling City.’ Finland’s capital launched a local bike-share program in 2016. Today it has more than 3,500 bikes in service.
The city is also conducting different pilots like the local cargo bike-sharing project for residents and businesses in the Jätkäsaari district. Another one is an intermodal project bringing bikes on trains for free. After successful testing, the project became permanent in 2018. Helsinki has the best bicycle infrastructure in the city center. As per reports, 74% of the residents feel safe while cycling in the city.
Milan – A New Addition
Milan is the most impacted city of Italy due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, while the city is making efforts to bring things back to normal, it is focusing on reallocating street space. Cycling and walking will replace cars on 35 km stretch.
The city has announced the ‘The Strade Aperte Plan. It involves low-cost temporary cycle lanes, widened pavements and speed limits decreased to 20mph. The city is aiming to complete the plan over the summer period.
Milan is not among the ‘Top 20 Bike-friendly Cities’ of Copenhagenize index. But the city is striving to bring in bicycle infrastructure in response to the pandemic. To follow strict social distancing, the city and the residents are realizing the potential of bicycles.
We hope, soon the city will be among the bicycle-friendly cities of the future. Because we need more of them!