Where is the most cycle-friendly city in the world?

The Dutch and Danish cycling utopias of Amsterdam, Groningen, Utrecht and Copenhagen are high up the listing but what about the rest of the world?

The future of cycling in the UK was dealt a bad hand when George Osbornes Spending Review revealed a new commitment of PS300m to cycling investment to 2020/21. While that might sound like a lot, it equates to around PS1. 40 per person per year in England( outside of London ), and a significant step backwards from previous commitments to minimum funding of PS10 per person per year. To set this in view, the average investment in the Netherlands is around 30( PS22) per person per year.

But while the UK government may be restriction the chances for British cities to become the most cycle-friendly in the world, across the globe many metropolises are taking huge steps to improve conditions for people on motorcycles. One Danish study reveals that for every kilometre cycled, society enjoys a 23 cent( 16 p) gain, while driving the same distance makes a net loss of 16 cents( 10 p ). Of course, cycling also increases fitness, tackles stress levels and one less car on the road will help to lower pollution levels.


Cycling accounts for 48% of journeys in Amsterdam. Photograph: Giorgio Fochesato/ Getty

Notable success tales come from the hailed Dutch and Danish cycling utopias, where investment into cycling is highest. But even theyve had their share of problems. During the urban modernisation of cities after the second world war, autoes became a predominating force-out on the streets of Copenhagen, and modal share of bicycles fell to as low as 10% before the city sought to tackle the problem through a combination of car-free days, the removal of parking spaces and pruning regions for pedestrian employ. Today, Copenhageners on bikes account for over 50% of trip-ups within the city centre; in Amsterdam, its 48% in the urban core, and in the university city of Groningen, bikes are used for 61% of all trips( rising to 70% of journeys made to educational institutions ). These cities are all obvious competitors for the most cycle-friendly crown, but there are other factors to consider besides numbers.

Since 2011, Copenhagenize Design Company has analysed cities efforts to improve bikeability across a variety of factors including advocacy, infrastructure, social acceptance and modal share to create a biennial bike-friendly city indicator. The rankings are based on data from the parameters, but we add added bonus points for things such as political will[ Parameters] plus expertise offer a more now vision of whats happening in a city , not only data, tells Mikael Colville-Andersen, chief executive of the company. Developed as a tool to determine the best available initiatives for re-establishing the bicycle in the urban landscape, this year Copenhagenize scrutinised 122 cities with its own population above 600,000. There are a few exceptions to those analysed, and less populated places with national significance such as Malmo and Ljubljana were included to provide a more well-rounded spread, and to restriction Dutch and Danish cycling utopias from predominating the list.

Unsurprisingly, those cities still come out on top, and the Danish capital itself takes Copenhagenizes first place, with Amsterdam and Utrecht running in close second and third. Copenhagen claimed Amsterdams spot at the top this year, after the citys motorcycle modal share jumped by 9% between 2012 and 2014. The city can also boast 5.2 motorcycles for every automobile in the city, and bonus phases were awarded for the continued investment in cycle infrastructure, including the new cycle superhighway thats currently under way to connect residents of surrounding areas to the capital.


Portland has a cycle modal share of 7.2% and over 319 miles of motorcycle lanes. Photograph: Rick Bowmer/ AP

Back to looking at the hard statistics again, the League of American Bicyclists( LAB) have made US city rankings based on commuter modal share. Davis, California comes out on top with a 23.2% of total commutes made by bike, attaining it the most cycle-friendly city in the US. As a small college township of 66,700 people, they have it much easier than the countrys bustling metropolises. At virtually 10 times larger than Davis, Portland, Oregon has achieved a bike modal share of 7.2% thanks to over 319 miles( and rising) of bike lanes. Over the years, this infrastructure has cost the city around $60 m( PS39. 7m) the same cost of constructing 1 single metre of urban freeway.

Across the country, however, the modal share still hovers below 2 %, but many municipalities are building big waves to change the focus away from the dominating auto, and back down to a more human level. In Detroit, home of the motor car, over 170 miles of cycle way have been introduced on the roads since 2006, contributing to a 400% rise in the number of cyclists on the roads since 2000, and a weekly motorcycle ride around the city regularly depicts in over 3,000 people. Cincinnati, too, has felt a 350% increase, but both cities are struggling to push the percentage of total motorcycle commuters above 1 %. Its incredible how communities throughout the country are able to leverage their unique circumstances to improve conditions for bicyclists, tells LAB policy specialist Ken McLeod. Sometimes communities that have lost population and have overbuilt roads dedicate some of that space to bicycles.

Similarly to the rust belt cities, residents of Christchurch, New Zealand took to cycling as a more efficient mode of transport when roads and roads were blocked or diverted after the 2011 earthquake destroyed large areas of the city. When will come forward with the opportunity to contribute to the rebuild scheme, better cycling infrastructure featured top of the list for many residents. While merely 3% of all journeys in New Zealand are made by bike, in Christchurch once known as the Copenhagen of the south 7% of people commute by bike. Outcomes elsewhere on the continent are not so promising. Australian census data shows that Canberra has the highest percentage of people who commute by bike at 2.8%, while other cities struggle to see this rise above 1.9%, with Sydney severely lagging at 0.9%.

Londons PS100m Mini Holland scheme aims to transform three boroughs with Dutch-inspired segregated bike lanes. Photo: Anthony Hatley/ Alamy

For cities such as Detroit and Christchurch, it may be easier to flies ahead when youre starting from the bottom, but the message of their success is clear build it and they will come. Buenos Aires has also gone from zero to hero thanks to the coming into force of over 140 km of protected bike lanes( bicisendas ), and a highly successful bike-share strategy, putting it in 14 th place on the Copenhagenize list this year. Seville, too, has jumped up the ranks with the number of people on bikes multiplied 11 -fold in the past few years, thanks to a combination of segregated lanes (8 0km in one go) and bike-share schemes. And in the Canadian city of Calgary, an entire bike-lane network was launched at once, rather than slowly trialling a handful of small pilot lanes, and was an overnight success. Other than quadrupling the number of cyclists on the routes almost immediately, the project also get gold stars for finishing C $1.35 m( PS650, 000) under the projected $7.1 m budget.

With most cycle-friendly rankings heavily stacked with European representatives( only 3 of Copenhagenizes Top 20 were not from the continent ), are there many Asian and African cities making waves with bikeability? One examine found that bicycle use in the Chinese capital had fallen from around 60% in 1986 to 17% in 2010, while a new love for the car has insured ownership more than quadruple since 2000. But while there may no longer be 9 million bicycles in Beijing, the government hope to restore the peoples faith in this now out-dated theory through infrastructure improvements and bike-hire schemes.

Tokyo holds one of the highest modal shares for bikes in Asia, with 16% of journeys built on two wheels. But after appearing in fourth( 2011) and1 2th( 2013) place on the indicator, the city fell off the list this year after bike-centred planning came to a stand-still.

For African cities, the data is much thinner on the ground. Data from the London School of Economics shows that non-motorised transport accounts for more than 70% of trips in some African cities, but this figure includes walk-to, riding a scooter and animal-drawn transport as well as bicycles. One 2014 survey shows that cycling in Johannesburg accounts for only 0.2% of all journeys in the city, while a instead outdated analyze been shown that the modal split for bikes in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Harare also fails to reach above 3 %~ ATAGEND. In Cape Town, 1% of residents get around by bike, but the city is working to drive the development of non-motorised transportation through improved cycling infrastructure, incorporated transport options and grassroots empowerment for bicycle culture.

While the hard modal share stats might provide a clear indicator of the worlds most bike-friendly city, perhaps less quantifiable factors such as gender split, perception of safety and stance can aid other cities to understand how they might get there. Take the stance towards cycling, for example. Examines carried out by Danish researchers show that many Danes dont even consider cycling exercise for them, its a mode of transport and not a workout activity. This also ties into political will, Colville-Andersen explains: Its not about promoting it to lycra-clad riders. A strong voice is needed to encourage regular the general public to cycle. Having a high proportion of women riding motorcycles may also be a sign of a cycle-friendly city. In Copenhagen, females make up 55% of those cycling, while the traffic-clogged streets of Manhattan hold only 20% female riders, reflecting the lack of infrastructure in New York.

Looking at the success of these cities be it through modal share, the number of female cyclists or posture towards biking could it be as simple as merely transplanting their models from one city to the next, Copenhagen to Jakarta, perhaps? Colville-Andersen thinks so: What is a city? Its just a bunch of homo sapiens living together and having to move from A to B Take any city on the planet, it doesnt matter about climate or topography. Best-practice infrastructure has been around for decades Its just copy and paste. In London, this copy and paste technique is taking kind through the Mini Holland scheme, which will see three boroughs transform into cycle-friendly spaces through the PS100m funding of Dutch-inspired segregated bike lanes and human-scale infrastructure.

So, while it may be possible to name the worlds most cycle-friendly city based on modal share figures and other indicators, do these rankings truly serve different purposes? Does Buenos Aires 14 th place on the Copenhagenize index really make it more bike-friendly than, say, Munich, which failed to feature in this years top 20, despite over 14% of its residents getting around on two wheels? Maybe not, but what these instances do show is that efforts are being made around the world to stimulate urban centres big and small more friendly for people on bikes, for businesses and for the community at large.

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