On Yer Bike; On two Wheels
Cycling is a popular, affordable and environmentally friendly way to see a city. In many European cities, it is positively encouraged. City planners are realising the benefits of cycling as a mode of transport and are providing cycle-paths, plenty of parking for bicycles, automated bike hire facilities, smartphone apps and bike-friendly public transport.
Not all cities are equal in their provision of cycle-friendly facilities. Many provide facilities aimed solely at the commuter and not the visitor.
The Danish capital has been at the forefront of making a city cycle-friendly. They have been so successful at it that the word, “Copenhagenization”, defined as urban planning and design with the purpose of encouraging cycling has been adopted by urban planners around the world.
Copenhagen has dedicated cycle paths either side of main roads with traffic lights at intersections timed for cyclists. Cycle routes through the city make it the most efficient way of seeing all the sights from the Little Mermaid to Nyhavn. For a truly cycle-friendly experience visit the neighbourhood of Christiana where there is a total ban on cars.
Perhaps the most well-known cycle-friendly city is Amsterdam. With a nation committed to cycling and a city full of canals and narrow twisting 17th-century streets, it is hardly surprising that most people in Amsterdam use bicycles to get around.
All the main sights are easily reached and using a bike to get around is both quicker and cheaper than public transport. Riding alongside the many canals of Amsterdam is the best way to see the city and meet with locals who are also pedalling along.
Berlin is a large city with the main sights spread out so using a bike to get around is ideal. The city is blessed with plenty of parks and green spaces where cycling is permitted and several hundred kilometres of dedicated cycling paths.
Exploring the diverse neighbourhoods of Berlin on a bike gives you a feel for the character of each that you would not achieve on a tour bus or train. Cycle through the Tiergarten to the Brandenburg Gate and on to Alexanderplatz to get a real feel for the city. There are several marked tours around the city with the Berliner Mauerweg (Berlin Wall Route) being the most memorable. The 5.7km section through the city centre passes remnants of the wall, memorials, watchtowers and information panels.
Slovenia’s boutique capital, Ljubljana, was awarded the European Green Capital Award in 2016 and being cycle-friendly was a major contributing factor. For a city that is small and compact with a population of around 300,000, the 230km of cycle paths is considerable.
There are several themed routes that explore different aspects of the city. The Plečnik Route takes you past many of the city architect’s buildings and monuments that define Ljubljana. The Lubljanica Route follows the river of the same name across the city. Alternatively, the narrow streets and squares of the city can easily be explored serendipitously on a bicycle.
In the space of 10 years, the urban planners have transformed the city for cyclists. They have constructed dedicated cycle paths that have, where necessary, physical barriers between road traffic and cyclists.
Seville has an astonishingly rich architectural heritage in its Old Town that is best explored on two wheels. A Moorish fort, Baroque churches and the magnificent Gothic cathedral are just a few of the highlights. However, it is the tapas scene for which the city is renown. They claim to have invented them so touring the tapas bars is a must.
Home to many of the European Union’s institutions the city of Strasbourg is the number one cycle-friendly city of France. The Old Town with its half-timbered houses and flower-bedecked balconies is virtually car-free and best explored by bike.
Like Amsterdam, the city has numerous canals and like Berlin, there is a plentiful supply of public parks where cycling is allowed. Strasbourg is one of the most pleasant cities to cycle in whether among the narrow streets of the Old Town or alongside the canals and the modern structures of the EU institutions.
Other cities to mention
More and more cities are developing cycle-friendly environments. Others to mention are: Bordeaux where several trans-France and trans-Europe cycle routes pass through. Trondheim which has a bike lift to take cyclists to the top of the mountain. Ghent where they have introduced anti-car measures to the city centre to discourage motorists.
No doubt there are others. Feel free to suggest your favourite cycle-friendly city in the comments.
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