Lonely Planet Writer

These are the world's best cities for cycling

When it comes to urban cycling, which cities get it right?

A couple cycle in Copenhagen
Copenhagen took the top spot in most cycle-friendly cities in the world for 2019. Image by Robin Skjoldborg/Getty Images

Navigating a city on two wheels can be a pleasurable experience, something you might take for granted because your city's cycle infrastructure works so well. Obviously that's not the case in all cities. In some places it's an incredibly frustrating or even dangerous experience where cyclists have to accept impossibly narrow bike lanes that run into traffic or half-finished cycle networks that go absolutely nowhere. Not to mention politicians who don't seem to consider cycling a feasible form of transport.

If you want to know which cities are doing it right, take a look at the Copenhagenize Index, a biannual report that evaluates 115 cities worldwide to track global progress in urban cycling. The report takes a number of factors into consideration such as biking infrastructure, bike-sharing programs, cycling safety and gender balance to figure out the most bike-friendly cities.

A woman cycling a cargo bike with children in Amsterdam.
A woman cycling a cargo bike with children in Amsterdam. Image by kavalenkau/Shutterstock

Unsurprisingly Copenhagen came out on top in the latest report. Cycling is a way of life in the Danish capital and most residents (62%) prefer to commute by bike rather than car. That's because it boasts a great network of cycle paths and bridges that make it safe and speedy for cyclists to zip through the city. And they never put the brakes on planning, officials are continuously striving to improve the urban bicycling experience.

Amsterdam came in second place thanks to the city's commitment to better accommodate the growing number of cyclists by widening bike lanes, building more low-speed cycle streets and redesigning intersections to make them safer. It also has an ambitious plan to remove 11,000 car parking spots by 2025 to make room for more trees, bikes and sidewalks.

Travel News - Bicycle rack
Cycling is very popular in Utrecht, which came 3rd in the report. Image by JTB Photo/UIG via Getty Images

Amsterdam was followed by another Dutch city, Utrecht, which is known for its world-class cycling infrastructure. But what really makes Utrecht stand out is innovation and political will. Report authors say politicians in Utrecht pursue cycling as a mode of transportation to the fullest potential, prioritising bicycles over cars. So much so that they aim to double the use of bicycle commuting traffic by 2030.

Antwerp in Belgium came fourth, scoring points for its commitment to improving cycle networks, as well as its aim to lower speed limits to 30 km/hr (18.6 mph) on 95% of all streets. Strasbourg in France completed the top five, thanks to its plan to expand its cycle networks from the city and into the suburbs.

Mopntreal brothers make stunning time-lapse video
Montreal came in joint 18th with Vancouver Photo by: iVideoMaking

The only cities in North America to make the top 20 list were Montréal and Vancouver, who were both placed in joint 18th as they continue to work to expand their urban cycle networks. Bogotá, Colombia came in 12th, thanks to its Ciclovía, a weekly Sunday activity that sees over a 60 miles of city streets closed to cars for citizens to navigate by bike or foot. While the only other non-European cities in the list were Tokyo, Japan (16th), followed by Taipei, Taiwan (17th), who were both noted for their great bike-sharing schemes and safe and orderly cycle networks.

1. Copenhagen, Denmark
2. Amsterdam, Netherlands
3. Utrecht, Netherlands
4. Antwerp, Belgium
5. Strasbourg, France
6. Bordeaux, France
7. Oslo, Norway
8. Paris, France
9. Vienna, Austria
10. Helsinki, Finland
11. Bremen, Germany
12. Bogotá, Colombia
13. Barcelona, Spain
14. Ljubljana, Slovenia
15. Berlin, Germany
16. Tokyo, Japan
17. Taipei, Taiwan
18. Montréal, Canada, and Vancouver, Canada
20. Hamburg, Germany