Bike Boost: Is France The New Netherlands?

Here are the most bicycle-friendly cities in France.

Beautiful sceneries, verdant forests, and respectful drivers – for more than a century, biking has been (and still is) the pleasurable sport to take on while living or traveling in France. In a world where we thrive towards being eco-friendly and active; biking represents the perfect non-polluting means of transport. After years of fighting to increase cycling in France, bikes have finally taken over certain French cities. Admittedly, France pales in comparison to the Nordic models like Oslo or Copenhagen, but Bordeaux and Strasbourg are still listed in the top 20 cycling cities in the world. Establishing bicycle-friendly infrastructures have been the fruits of an unwavering and long-term commitment.

In 2019, the Copenhagenize Index published a ranking of the 20 most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. According to the classification; Strasbourg, Bordeaux, and Paris all listed in the top 10. But how is a city considered to be bicycle-friendly?

A chart of the cities and the scores
A chart of the cities and the scores.

As seen on the chart, the cities are graded according to three criteria: streetscape, culture and ambition. The streetscape parameters include the infrastructures and the facilities available to cyclists, and how respectful the drivers are. The culture parameters encompass modal share, bicycle gender split, safety, and cargo bikes. Finally, ambition is the most important as it relies on the city’s investments and goals for the future.

1. Strasbourg

Alsace by bike
Alsace by bike. FACEBOOK Alsace à vélo

As the leading bicycle-friendly city in France, it is only fitting to start with Strasbourg. According to Statista Research department, the Alsatian capital has conquered the hearts of cyclists. The city has been developed and many amenities have been implemented for bikers, as more than 15% of locals ride their bikes to work. A centralized urban cycling system has been created as well as more than 600 km of lanes to facilitate biking. As you wander through the city, you will discover how widespread biking is: private citizens and workers alike all use that mode of transportation for daily tasks. Since 2013, Strasbourg has not stopped innovating, and continues to fight against cars in the urban landscape. Beyond Strasbourg’s infrastructures, this city has the most bucolic bicycle rides to do! We recommend Le Canal de la Bruche. Pedal through the charming Alsace scenery, through mossy green forests and traditional towns alike. With over 200,000 inhabitants, Strasbourg continues to develop the city and intends to increase the modal share of cycling. The goal? To alleviate congestion in a crowded city in order to attract more travelers.

2. Bordeaux

The bicycle festival in Bordeaux
The bicycle festival in Bordeaux. FACEBOOK Vélo-Cité Bordeaux Métropole

Following in Strasbourg’s footsteps is the city of Bordeaux. Since 2015, it has focused on making bikes the key mode of transportation by banning cars in certain areas. The famous bridge “Pont de Pierre” has been car-free since 2017, allowing the influx of bicycles to increase by 20%. In 1997, Bordeaux started an initiative to create a bicycle network throughout the entire city. Today, 160 km of bike lanes and a huge lane of 4 meters large have been implemented to prevent any accidents. The popular city earned an impressive score in the ambition parameter due to Bordeaux’s projects and innovations. Pierre Humic, the mayor of Bordeaux, has set aside a 20 million budget to create “30km of bicycle lanes,” and to improve bicycle traffic. With bicycles and the tramway, Bordeaux is definitely on the right track to becoming a fully sustainable city.

3. Paris

bicycle france
Photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash

This can come as quite a surprise! After years of political disputes between parties, Paris has finally implemented biking amenities. Even though Parisians may not feel safe biking around the city, bikers represent more than 30% of the traffic in certain neighborhoods, like Rue Rivoli. Instead of purchasing a bike, Parisians can simply use the numerous self-service bicycles that are available to all. With over 20,000 bicycles, 340,000 members, and 1,200 stations; this service is one of the most used in the world, and Paris was one of the first megalopolis  to introduce it. New initiatives set by Mayor Anne Hidalgo, like: “Journée sans voitures” or A Day without cars”, allow locals and tourists to successfully discover Paris in a whole new light. Converting France’s capital into a greener city has always been at the heart of the mayor’s mandate. Her goal? 100% bike-friendly streets by 2024. While numerous new infrastructures are being created, new ideas are sprouting: limiting access to heavy vehicles, learning to ride a bike at school rather than at home, secure bike parking… etc. We all know Paris as the polluted city with cars honking everywhere, but thanks to the mayor this will all change very soon!

France may not be the new Netherlands, but it is certainly on its way to be. So, when you are in France, do not forget to contribute to these initiatives by biking everywhere! France and the planet are counting on you.

Eve McGuardian


Eve was born and raised in NYC and later on, moved to Paris. She grew up in an international home and is fluent in both French and English. Every chance she gets, she travels; either to discover a new culture or as a volunteer in an organization. The most memorable cities she has been to are: Ischia, a little island off the coast of Naples for the people, Istanbul for the culture, and Paris for the architecture.

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