Cycling in the city has many benefits — boosting physical and mental wellbeing, reducing carbon footprint, boosting sustainability, and often reducing journey time.
Another benefit is the chance to see a different side of a city, one that can’t be accessed on foot, in a car, or on public transportation. So it’s no wonder that biking has become one of the top ways that tourists interact with their destination.
Urban planning in the 21st century has been increasingly geared towards cyclists, with dedicated lanes, alternate route maps, and campaigns to bolster awareness among motorists and pedestrians. Not all cities are created equal, however, we’re going to have a look at the best urban areas worldwide to explore on your bike.
Cycling in Amsterdam is a quintessential experience that captures the essence of the city’s unique culture and urban planning. Like the rest of the Netherlands, it boasts an extensive network of dedicated bike lanes, traffic signals, and bike-friendly infrastructure, Amsterdam is often hailed as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world — and sometimes it seems that bikes outnumber people.
Locals and tourists alike navigate the city’s picturesque streets on two wheels, effortlessly blending with the charming canals and historic architecture. Cycling is not just a mode of transportation here; it’s a way of life. Almost all of Amsterdam’s major attractions are accessible by bike, and visitors can easily escape the city and see the surrounding countryside — best to do so in tulip season.
The United States is often associated with driving — the cities are often built more with cars in mind than pedestrians or cyclists. But recent years have seen this trend being bucked, especially among younger people. Portland, Oregon, is one such place where cycling has become part of the city’s identity, and a friendly community has grown up around the bike shops and clubs. Known as the “City of Bikes,” Portland boasts an extensive network of bike lanes, dedicated paths, and bike-friendly streets, making it a haven for cyclists.
The city’s commitment to sustainability and eco-friendliness aligns perfectly with the cycling culture, so cyclists can explore Portland’s diverse neighborhoods, lush parks, and iconic bridges knowing that their carbon footprint is minimal. Not only that but being on two wheels is one of the best ways to take in the breathtaking backdrop of the Pacific Northwest. More adventurous cyclists can find trails outside the city, many along the coastline, with dramatic cliffs jutting into the ocean.
Located on the Rhine, Basel is a scenic city that has a well-preserved medieval old town — the cobblestones might seem like a pain, literally, for cyclists, but the rustic facade belies a modern cycling infrastructure, suitable for cyclists of all ages and experience levels. But of course, with the right bike frame, ride height, and setup, cobbles won’t be such a problem. The river itself offers great locations to cycle, and many of the paths run along its banks.
The city is compact, so those on two wheels can check out pretty much everything it has to offer — particularly the cultural scene, with museums and top art galleries such as Foundation Beyeler to immerse themselves in.
Another city transformed by the power of the bicycle is Bogotá, Colombia. The transportation landscape has shifted, meaning cleaner air, and increased quality of life for inhabitants of this vibrant city.
The implementation of the Ciclovía program, which temporarily closes major streets to vehicular traffic every Sunday and on holidays, has become a hallmark of Bogotá’s commitment to cycling and has been a policy since the 1970s. This initiative encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to hop on their bikes and explore the city, offering the chance for newer or younger cyclists to get to know routes and areas, as well as build confidence on two wheels.
In addition to Ciclovía, Bogotá has developed an extensive network of bike lanes and bike-sharing programs to encourage healthy and eco-conscious travel in the bustling South American metropolis.
One look at pictures of Tokyo might suggest a nightmarish place for cyclists, with crowded streets, high volumes of traffic, and dense tightly packed streets. It’s certainly true that most visitors to the city opt to get around on the extensive transport network, but Tokyo also has a cycling culture deeply rooted in daily life.
As with all the other bike-friendly cities, lanes, sharing systems and rentals make it easy for both residents and tourists to check out the sprawling city, taking in the serene paths along the scenic Sumida River, or navigating through vibrant neighborhoods like Harajuku and Asakusa.
Cycling provides an intimate and eco-friendly way to experience Tokyo’s rich cultural heritage and stunning cityscape, and the cycling infrastructure, like so much in Japanese society, echoes the balance between tradition and innovation.
City breaks and cycling were meant for each other. If you fancy checking out places across the globe on two wheels, put some of these suggestions on your bucket list, and saddle up!