We often look to our European neighbours for examples of good cycling environments – Amsterdam and Copenhagen, for example, seem to have achieved what is still only a dream for UK cities. But what actually makes a city accommodating for cyclists? Leisure Lakes Bikes have looked at several factors, including air pollution, the number of cycle routes, mapped ways, share stations and share bicycles available to create an index that ranks European capitals for cycling friendliness.
Here they reveal the top 5 most accommodating European cities for cyclists, with innovations and cycle-centric schemes galore…
1. Bern, Switzerland
Bern is a clear winner with a total index of 86.82 (out of 100). Located in the heart of the Alps, Bern offers picturesque views, quaint countryside, and a well-developed infrastructure.
It’s no surprise that the locals’ favourite mode of transport is cycling, regardless of the weather conditions. Touring is also highly praised and well accommodated within the area. There are several bike-friendly hotels geared up for cyclists and offering free tours, bike parking, and bike rentals.
A home to a rich collection of cycling routes, Bern is most cherished for its Wankdorf route, which opened in 2016. The route serves as a role model for the development of forthcoming routes because it features a separated cycle track and a green wave for cyclists riding at 20 km/h. The Green Wave is an incredible innovation, the traffic lights are coordinated for cyclists so that if they ride at a speed of 20 km/h, they will hit green lights all the way into the city in the morning rush hour. The wave is reversed in the afternoon so bicycle users can flow smoothly home, too.
Bern ranks the highest on three separate factors: air pollution, number of bike share stations, and number of bike share bicycles available. There are 174.3 bike share stations per 100,000 people and 1,646.79 bicycles per 100,000 people.
Switzerland is one of the first members of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). In the span of the last 25 years, air quality has significantly improved in the country. That’s due to the implementation of ambitious clean air policies. Bern itself has the lowest air pollution index out of all the European capitals – only 5.68.
2. Vaduz, Liechtenstein
A city with an incredibly small population and a stunning landscape, Vaduz welcomes cycling tourists from all over the world. Its proximity to Germany means there are many cycling routes connecting Vaduz with other German cities.
Covering majestic mountain routes, lakes, and meadows, Vaduz is ideal for all types of leisure and adventure biking. One of the most popular routes is the Five Castle Tour, which starts at the city centre and goes past Vaduz Castle, Werdenberg Castle, Wartau Castle, Sargans Castle, and Burg Guttenberg Castle, and ends back in Vaduz.
The capital of Liechtenstein ranks the highest in terms of mapped cycleways, a total of 458,957.1 per 100,000 people. Vaduz is second in terms of air pollution, exhibiting only a 6.47 air pollution index. The number of cycle routes is also impressive, a total of 2828.55 per 100,000 people, which attests to the city’s well-developed cycling infrastructure.
3. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Covered by forests and flat roads, Ljubljana is one of the most bike-friendly cities for cyclists, according to a 2015 list. It was ranked fourteenth on the Copenhagenize Bicycle Friendly Cities Index 2019. Now, it’s been named as the third most accommodating European capital for cyclists.
So, what makes Ljubljana such a paradise for bicycle riders? First of all, the Slovenian capital has the highest number of cycle routes – a total of 3,566.6 per 100,000 people. In the past decade, Ljubljana has implemented a number of modern ideas to boost its infrastructure.
The locals are also quite keen on cycling. Slovenian Tadej Pogačar recently won his second Tour de France in a row, and Primož Roglič has won the last three Vuela a España.
Ljubljana performs relatively well on the air pollution index, a total of 20.75. The city was named European Green Capital 2016 due to its continuous efforts to preserve and protect the green areas, manage waste, and focus on public networks and pedestrian and cycling networks. The title has influenced the cycling community, with the proportion of cyclists increasing and the cycling infrastructure expanding.
4. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
In 2019, Luxembourg City was voted the world’s second-best city to ride a bike after Amsterdam, according to the Dutch moving platform ScanMovers. That’s because “there is a very strong political will in the city to make it even better for bikes”.
Luxembourg City has 2,590.56 cycle routes per 100,000 people, 228,976.48 mapped routes per 100,000 people, and 158.98 bike share bicycles available per 100,000 people. The country has also been home to five Tour de France winners since 1909.
The capital of Luxembourg is famous for its organised bike tours that wind through breathtaking views and acres of forest, all part of the country’s national network of cycling paths. The government’s efforts to support cycling as both a tourist venture and a recreational activity are shown in the continuous improvements of the cycling infrastructure.
One such implementation is the UNESCO-Bike-Tour, which is organised in partnership with UNESCO. It takes cyclists on a 9.5-kilometre-long route across 80 heritage sites.
5. Copenhagen, Denmark
49% of all trips to work and education in Copenhagen were carried out on bikes in 2018, an 8% increase from 2016. By 2025, Copenhagen has set a goal of 50%, which will be easily achieved.
Indeed, the city is incredibly accommodating for cyclists. There is a network of paths that includes innovative bridges that form cycling superhighways across the city. Copenhagen was also the first city to implement a parking facility for Cargo bikes in 2009, called the Pink car.
Copenhagen comes out best in the bike share services category. There are 169.17 bike share stations per 100,000 people, putting it just behind Bern at 174.30. The most popular bike share system in the city is Bycyklen (The City Bike), which has become synonymous with Copenhagen.
Sustainable, innovative and fun
UK town and city councils could learn a lot from visiting one of these five cities, that treat their cycling citizens with respect and pride. When more people cycle, everyone benefits from cleaner air, safer roads and less congestion. Will your city ever make this list? What needs to change?