The urban bike magazine

The Top-10 Bicycle Friendly Cities 2017

Which cities are the best cities for urban cycling, and why?
To answer this question the Copenhagenize Design Company* developed a index to rank the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world.

A few things have changed with the 2017 version of the bi-annual index. The number of cities and metro areas ranked in the index went up from 122 to 136.
One new parameter became very important this year. Cargo Bikes and Logistics. Cargo bikes are becoming a game-changer for city life and logistics.
Cities are given between 0 and 4 points in 14 different categories. In addition, there is a potential for a maximum of 12 bonus points awarded for particularly impressive efforts or results.
The Copenhagenize Index gives cities marks for their efforts towards re-establishing the bicycle as a feasible, accepted and practical form of transport.
The interest in taking the bicycle seriously as transport once again continues unabated around the world.


This are the top-10 bicycle-friendly cities 2017

1. Copenhagen

Copenhagen was already quite high in the rankings, reaching 2nd place back in 2011 and 2013. It clinched the top spot for the first time in 2015. The city retained its position in the current standings.
The uniform design of its cycle path network is the only one of its kind in the world. A whopping €134 million was invested in the city’s cycling infrastructure. Eight new bridges for cyclists (and pedestrians) were built and another eight are under construction or being planned.
A cycle path around the harbour called the Havneringen and other cycle highways that lead to the city centre have been completed, as has a digitally controlled green wave on the main bicycle routes.
The upshot of this is that an impressive 62% of inhabitants ride their bikes on a daily basis.

Cycling City Copenhagen

2. Utrecht

A number of steps have been taken to promote cycling in recent years under the city development plan “Utrecht Attractive and Accessible”.
The highly praised flagship project which boasts the world’s largest bicycle parking facility for 12,500 bikes is nearing completion. Its capacity is to be doubled by 2020.
Despite the high standards, Utrecht invests a lot in its bicycle infrastructure: the longest bicycle street in Holland, which stretches 6 km, and the Dafne Schippersbrug bridge are just two examples of this.
The modal share** of cyclists is 60%, which means that Utrecht has caught up with winners of recent years, Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

3. Amsterdam

For many years Amsterdam was considered the benchmark by which cycling cities were measured. Almost 60% of the population travel by bike every day, covering more than two million kilometres. 73% of the population own at least one bike. And the cycling trend is continuing. The whole of Amsterdam is a single bike path and cyclists are allowed to ride (almost) everywhere.
However, this does lead to challenges for urban planning, as the existing infrastructure is often overwhelmed by the number of cyclists. Innovative systems like those in Copenhagen or Utrecht are largely absent. Another problem is the number of motorised scooters on bike paths which has sky-rocketed (now over 35,000) and which poses a safety issue.
In order to not lose its position at the top of the pack, Amsterdam now needs to show where and how city cycling can go next. There are numerous great projects in the pipeline waiting to be implemented.

4. Strasbourg

Strasbourg established itself on the index after first joining two years ago. The modal split of 16% (highest in France) rose by 3%. For many years Strasbourg was the only bicycle-friendly city in France. Cities such as Paris, Bordeaux and Nantes are now basing their urban planning concepts on Strasbourg.
Strasbourg’s Vélhop is one of the best examples of a working bike sharing service. Strasbourg boasts the highest number of rental bike users of any city. With the construction of the VeloStras bicycle highway network and a new cargo bike promotion scheme, Strasbourg looks set to retain its leading position in the coming years.

5. Malmö

In recent years, Malmö has really pushed urban cycling and the use of cargo bikes in everyday life.
The new bicycle ferry to Copenhagen is just one example of how Malmö is trying to make connections to the city with the coveted top spot.
A residential building called Cykelhuset has been opened where the bicycle is championed as the main form of transport and where inhabitants can go about their everyday lives without a car. The new bicycle hotel is another sign that Malmo is the capital of the bike-friendly region of Skåne in southern Sweden.

6. Bordeaux

With the help of hard-working politicians and a strong cycling lobby, Bordeaux is striving to become one of the top bicycle-friendly cities in France by 2020. With this in mind, the very ambitious Vélo Métropolitainscheme was created. A €75 million bicycle infrastructure budget is a good start. In addition to numerous traffic-calming measures, one of the major bridges over the Garonne will be closed to car traffic, the bike sharing scheme will be developed and the cycling network consolidated.

7. Antwerp

Antwerp is and remains Belgium’s most attractive city for cyclists.
With impressive bicycle parking at the main train station and other busy stations and a network of cycle paths, which also connects the suburbs outside the ring road, Antwerp moved up from 9th to 7th.
Large-scale projects, such as cycle paths along the harbour, three new bridges for cyclists and pedestrians were built, and other projects such as replacing the ring road with an urban development zone which includes cycle paths and low-volume traffic are underway.
Antwerp is well on its way to significantly increasing the share of cyclists and becoming one of the most modern bicycle-friendly cities in Europe.

8. Ljubljana

Ljubljana has all the prerequisites to achieve a modal split of 20% to 30% in just a few years.
The bicycle commission is more influential and respected than in many other European cities. The political decision-makers are ambitious. The modernisation of the city’s bicycle infrastructure has gained a lot of momentum since Ljubljana officially became the European Green Capital in 2016.

9. Tokyo

Tokyo returns to the Copenhagenize Index in 2017 with impressive numbers. 20% of the more than 20 million commuters ride their bikes to the nearest train or subway station. This is equal to the total population of Berlin.
A modal-split of 30% or more is not uncommon in some suburbs. Bicycles are everywhere.
The newly established Cycling Embassy of Japan (CEJ) is doing great work and contributes to Tokyo’s place as the most attractive megacity for cyclists.
The new mayor Yuriko Koike wants to establish the bicycle as the main form of transport for day-to-day life by the 2020 Olympic Games. An objective Rio and London failed to achieve. Hopefully, Tokyo will be make a better go of it.

10. Berlin

Berlin’s rise to the top 10 is mainly due to the extraordinary campaigning of the bicycle community. Volksentscheid Fahrrad (bicycle referendum) has led to wide-ranging discussions and has forced politicians in charge to put the subject of cycling on the agenda.
The modal split is a respectable 13%, but some districts have already reached 20% or more.
A new bike sharing scheme, the test run for traffic-calmed zones and green waves for cyclists should help to increase this figure.
The number of cargo bikes is growing exponentially. This shows that a large part of the population is prepared for everyday life in the city without a car. Wider and better cycle paths should account for this development. The bizarre mix of bicycle infrastructure that was forced into a car-oriented city needs to be dismantled.
The city should strive to remedy the shortcomings highlighted by the referendum.

12. Vienna

Vienna was the first Austrian city to narrowly miss out on making the top 10.
After a tentative start, the city moved up four places thanks to an ambitious approach to improving its bicycle infrastructure, leaving cities like Paris, Munich and Hamburg in its wake.
This improvement can traced back to a number of private initiatives, the impressive number of (city-sponsored) cargo bikes and Europe’s first cargo bike rental system.
The 1300-km network of bike paths is by no means the end of the road. In fact, in many parts of Vienna the expansion of the network has only just begun. Vienna still has a lot of room for improvement, the difference between it and cities like Copenhagen is massive.

* Copenhagenize
Copenhagenize Design Company is a leading urban design consultancy specialising in all matters relating to re-establishing the bicycle as transport in our cities.
They advise cities and governments in how to work towards a more bicycle-friendly landscape and see the bicycle as being the most powerful tool in our urban toolboxes to start the transformation and modernization of our cities.

** Modal split
or modal share can be defined as the share of people using a particular mode of transport (including cycling and walking) within the overall transport usage of an urban area.
The modal split is used to quantify the mobility behaviour of people. A bicycle traffic share of 15 % in the modal-split means, that from all paths travelled 15% are covered by bicycle.

Pictures & graphic are from the Copenhagenized website.
Credits: Copenhagenize Design Company

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