The 18 Best Biking Cities on Earth
As proof that Sweden’s third-largest city (pop. 318,000) adores bicycles, look no further than the free bike pumps along cycling paths. Then there’s the 300-plus miles of paths reserved for bikes (more than in Stockholm), which are used for nearly 30 percent of trips within Malmö. In under three hours you can easily tour the city by bike.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
In central Amsterdam, bikes—as opposed to cars—are the norm, and 60 percent of people use the mode of two-wheel transportation. On the down side: bicyclists tend to whiz past you during a leisurely ride. Witness Dutch icons like windmills, fields of tulips, and storied castles by straying outward to North Amsterdam. With your rental bike in tow, hop a free ferry behind the central Amsterdam station and, once in North Amsterdam, travel through farm villages like Broek-in-Waterland and Uidam (11 miles total) before heading back to your hotel.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A.
The Midwestern city counts five percent of its population (that’s 20,000 people, and the second-highest percentage in the U.S.) as two-wheel commuters—yes, even through the often bitter-cold winter. Local roaster Peace Coffee even delivers its beans by bike. Visitors can tool around the city on shared bikes through Nice Ride MN, or try out some 118 miles of on-street bikeways and 92 miles of off-street bikeways. Try the 5.7-mile Midtown Greenway, which takes you over the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge and grants access to the Chain of Lakes.
Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.
This Pacific Northwest city is crammed with cyclists—so much so that the city developed nine urban routes. The “Short, Steep, & Sweet,” a 15-mile hilly climb, winds through Portland’s West Hills neighborhood and affords views of Tualatin Valley before coasting downhill to Washington Park. Promoting paths like this is all part of the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030, which hopes that 25 percent of all residents’ trips will be done on bike.
Copenhagen is arguably the best biking city in the world, as evidenced by its 242 miles of designated bike lanes and the new Cycle Super Highway—a 13.7-mile stretch connecting Copenhagen with the suburb of Albertslund ,and the first of 26 “highways” just for bicyclists. There’s also the Instagram-worthy, year-old Cykelslangen, an elevated two-way bike lane painted bright orange, which connects the highway and harbor bridge.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Canada’s most French metropolis is naturally going to be en amour with bicycles. Rent a two-wheeler through Bixi and opt for a ride along the Lachine Canal, where a bike path debuted during the 1970s. To reach the canal, depart from downtown on either Guy or Peel Streets. Bonus: along the 18.6-mile trip, you’ll have the chance to pop into Old Montreal and Old Port, adding just six miles to the journey.
In this bustling, pedestrian-friendly region, about 124 miles of bike paths satisfy a city of only 236,000. For a quick five-mile route that straddles both left and right banks, depart from Place Gambetta for views of world-class monuments (Grand Théâtre, Place de la Bourse, Porte Cailhau and Place du Palais) from your bicycle seat along Cours de l’Intendance, Cours du Chapeau Rouge, and Pont de Pierre.
While the chief reason for bicycling in this city—home to 20.2 million people—might be automobile congestion, it’s nonetheless a valid one. To avoid Beijing’s auto-traffic crunch, cruise along the Tongzhou canal, a 10-mile flat route that’s mostly vehicle-free and kicks off from the Grand Canal’s east bank (where Yunhe Xi Dajie turns into Tonghu Nan Lu). From this route it’s easy to enter the Grand Canal Ecological Route. Expect to see wetlands, bridges, river islands, and garden sculptures. There are also many spots along the way to stop for a picnic, so long as you’ve packed your own food.
Outfitted with a 211-mile network of bicycle paths, Colombia’s largest city is in the middle of a commuting renaissance. Plan your trip over a Sunday to experience car-free roads between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m., a tradition that’s been going strong since the 1970s. Among today’s most popular cycling routes in Bogotá are those on the Complementary Network, which showcases the city’s green spaces and traveling along riverbanks.
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
As a college town with beautiful vistas, Madison has long been a haven. A network of 350 shiny-red, shared bikes joined the mix of options for travelers to this compact city of 250,000. Hop on the seven-mile Madison stretch of the Capital City State Trail to see the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace Convention Center just off Capitol Square, as well as green space along John Nolan Drive, which hugs the shores of Lake Monona.
Tokyo is a cycling mecca with an estimated 9 million bikes in use—not bad for a city of 13 million. Riding along Tokyo’s waterfront yields a glimpse at the world’s largest fish market, Tsukiji, which is open daily. Souvenirs abound, including engraved knives, dried mushrooms, and ceramics. Next, you’ll travel along the Sumida River, a 17-mile stretch with many bridges.
There’s no need to leave the urban core to cycle around this design-centric city. In fact, by starting at Plaça Catalunya and biking for only 5.6 miles, you’ll hit most of the highlights, including Sagrada Familia, Arc de Triomf, and Casa Batlló. Take a right onto Av. Portal de l’Angel, left onto Carrer dels Arcs, then head to The Born, home to Museu Picasso de Barcelona. This route ends at Las Ramblas, a pedestrian-friendly walkway lined with cafes, bars, and shops.
Australia’s fourth most populous city—and the capital of West Australia—is full of cyclists, but for a more leisurely ride, pedal into a more rural setting. One of the best routes is along the Kep Track. Using former rail lines, the mostly flat route takes you through the bush but not too far from the city. While the total length is 47 miles, it’s easy to do just a section. We recommend hopping on the trailhead at Mundaring Weir (a 50-minute car drive from Perth) and turning around before Northam.
This Swiss city has a love affair with cycling—and it shows. In fact, you can even connect with bike trails to other European countries, and rent a bike in one Swiss city but return in another. That said, there’s no reason to leave Basel as the city sports traffic signals and lanes just for cyclists. Pedal throughout the center by starting at Central Station, traveling along the River Rhine and continuing to the suburb of Liestal.
As a tourist you can blend right into this Belgian town—long associated with a cycling culture—with a rental bike from Velo or a Streetstepper. In fact, the city’s tourism board designed a booklet of four loops just for visitors, including stops at bicycle-friendly cafes and restaurants for a fuel break. Hop onto the city’s first route, the 35-mile Heideroute, established in 1976. Bonus: it cycles past the Arboretum Kalmthout, a perfect spot to stretch your legs.
This southern Brazilian city of 1.8 million flaunts multiple bike paths, with many connecting neighborhoods to one another, which allows for a fun, local experience in Curitiba. Three years ago the government announced plans to increase the total length of cycling paths from 74 miles to 250 miles. To try out the city’s cycling vibe, and sample both nature and culture, hope on Av. Fredolin Wolf’s new 4.7-mile extension through the Wire Opera House, Tanguá and Tingui parks, and three neighborhoods (Pilarzinho, Santa Felicidade and São João).
Cycle and see the waterfront in this coastal Taiwanese city, with a bicycle-only bridge—Hamasen Pier1 Scenic Bridge—that joins 155 miles of bike lanes. Rent an eye-catching, lime-green bike through the city’s shared-bike program and return to the closest kiosk (there are 50) once you’re done.
Germany is rife with bike-friendly cities, but Munich rises to the top, with nearly 17 percent of its traffic belonging to cyclists. Even better: half of the city’s roads are open to bicyclists. Rent a bike through Call A Bike, then pedal along the Isar River, with a quick walking detour into Maximilianeum. The parliament building is surrounded by gorgeous foliage year-round—it’s along the river and marked by the Maximilian Bridge.