The majority of Americans love cars. While some people are spending every penny buying the latest gas-guzzler, a large group of cities around the world are taking the initiative to leave cars in their dust and put bikes in 1st gear. Of the top 5 cities in the world that are choosing manpower (even the top 20!) over engine power, not a single one of them are located in the United States.
Unfortunately, the bicycle friendly cities located stateside, Portland, San Francisco, and New York have fallen out of the top 20 since the 2011 ranking. Copenhagen’s urban mobility expert, Mikael Colville-Anderson has been quoted saying that he feels, “The primary difference in the success of the emerging bicycle cities on the list and those American cities that didn’t make it is really down to infrastructure. Barcelona, Seville, Dublin, Bordeaux, among others, have been making progress by creating safe infrastructure for users. There were no bicycles in these cities six years ago, but now they are well on their way to double-digit modal share.”
While America is getting their bikes in gear, there are plenty of exotic places to look towards when learning how to make your city greener.
Here are the top 5 cycling cities in the world:
5. Nantes, France
Nantes has mastered the leisurely carefree appeal of bike riding in France. The entire 226 miles of the Nantes-Brest Canal Bicycle Path can be traveled in anywhere from one to two weeks and passes through picturesque French towns and villages. In addition to the NBC, Nantes has committed to spending almost 53 million dollars on expanding their cycling initiative between 2009 and 2014! This is a strong political and social move, will which helped solidify their seat as European Green Capital 2013. In full renovation, the bicycle network will be redesigned with 248 miles of additional lanes.
4. Seville, Spain/ Bordeaux, France
Seville is most innovative city in Spain when it comes to cycling. This is largely due to the fact that they took a multifaceted approach to the implementation of a cycling plan. They combined a widely supported social movement with strong political will from the local administration. They now have a very uniform cycle network made of very safe cycle tracks, fully segregated from the motorized traffic. With 75 miles of cycling tracks, and nearly 10% of the population using bicycles as transportation, they are well on their way up the list.
Bordeaux has secured its spot on the top 5 with bike paths nearing 90 miles in length. The innovation of the Bordeaux trails pushed this French metropolitan city into the top-tier European cycling cities, while the number of cyclists in Bordeaux having tripled over fifteen years, and 7-9% of its residents commuting by bike every day, there’s never been a better time to two-wheel yourself around a city as intricate and artistic as this one.
3. Utrecht, Netherlands
The city of Utrecht set out on a goal to stimulate people to use their bicycles to get to the green recreational areas more frequently. The most efficient and exciting answer they came up with was to create bicycle paths 2 to 4 miles long that would take people along attractive and interesting places in the city. The signs were financed under the Green-program of the city that runs for several years. With these recreational bicycle routes the city hopes to increase the accessibility of the areas in and around the city.
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
Currently more then one third of the population in Copenhagen commutes daily to work and school by bicycle. The city has created an ambitious goal for 2015, that 50% of all who work in Copenhagen will commute by bike in accordance with the cities environmental plan, ECO-METROPOLE OUR VISION 2015, working towards their ultimate goal of making Copenhagen the world’s best biking city. With their 186 miles of bike tracks already and use and 30 more to come they are pushing the green initiative and turning into one of the largest biking networks.
1. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam is the top bicycling city in the world. The narrow, winding streets of Amsterdam’s historic city center are definitely best navigated by bike, so here you will find every one is on two wheels. In fact, the 799, 000 people who live in Amsterdam own an estimated 881,000 bicycles, contributing to the 40% growth in travel by bike. They sit at the top with nearly 250 miles of bike tracks that will take you nearly anywhere you want to go.
Tips for safe cycling
Cycling in the city can be hectic. Here are a few things to keep in mind after you hire a bicycle:
- ~Stay in your lane: If there are bicycle lanes, make sure you use them! They are there for you and your family’s safety.
- ~Follow the rules of the road: Adhere to all traffic lights and signs; don’t cycle on sidewalks if there are bike paths.
- ~Give a sign: Make sure you signal when turning by putting your hand out.
- ~Light at night: It’s required by law to use front and backlights on your bicycle after dark.
- ~Keep an eye on other traffic: Motorcycles and cars are notorious for zip down the roads, and large delivery trucks might have trouble seeing you if you’re biking in their blind spot.
- ~Lock it right: Always lock your bike up to something secure and immovable, preferably a bike rack. Bicycle theft is, sadly, very common!
- ~Make room for fellow cyclists: Don’t bike more than two people across, keep pace with the other cyclists, and pull over to answer your phone or check the map.
- ~Don’t imitate: Many frequent cyclists are often break the rules: cycling through red lights or biking at night without lights. Do not follow their example!