10 Bike-Friendly Cities Around the Globe

Action image of two people riding a bicycle

 <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=1188505">Peter Clark/</a>Shutterstock

Many people seek out public transportation when they visit a city. Trains and buses can significantly lower a traveler’s carbon footprint — and so can walking. But what about bicycles? Most urban areas have some sort of bike scene, but dangerous roads and lots of car traffic (not to mention aggressive drivers) can make it hazardous to undertake a pedal-powered sightseeing tour.

But cycling in a few select metropolises is safe and easy because of infrastructure that includes bike lanes, dedicated cycle paths, and drivers who are generally more willing to share the road. If you want a bicycle to be a part of your next vacation, these pedal-friendly cities should be on your list. (Text: Josh Lew)

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Portland, Ore.

BikeRanger/flickr.

Portland's bicycle scene has gotten plenty of positive press. The city has earned the top ranking in several “best cities for cycling” lists. Nearly 6 percent of all locals commute using a bicycle, though a pedal tour through the city may lead visitors to believe that the percentage is actually much higher.

With proper rain gear, it is possible to bike year-round in Portland. The city's bike friendliness is mainly due to a cutting-edge infrastructure that includes bike lanes and “bicycle boulevards” (side streets with low speed limits that have been optimized for bicycle traffic). Dedicated bike paths like the Springwater Corridor mean that visiting cyclers can ride for miles without ever seeing a car. Portland's bike culture is thriving and easily accessible, so if you are a social cycler — someone who likes to meet and ride with other enthusiasts — this is the city for you.

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Minneapolis, Minn.

Erlin1/flickr.

Minneapolis is not necessarily the first place that people think of when it comes to biking. Cold, snowy winters are less than ideal for pedal-themed vacations. Nonetheless, Minneapolis was recently ranked the best city in the U.S. for bicycling by Bicycle Magazine.

Numerous streets boast bike lanes, and there is a city-wide network of paths and trails that makes it possible to travel without having to ever ride on the street. Main paths are even plowed in the wintertime, sometimes even before side streets are cleared after a snowstorm.

Snow and wind chills are only part of the cycling equation from late November through mid-to-late March. For the rest of the year, biking is an easier undertaking, with many people seduced by the trails that circle the urban lakes and riversides of Minneapolis and connect the city's most interesting neighborhoods.

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Copenhagen, Denmark

Lmpicard/flickr .

Copenhagen is one of the world's most cycle-friendly metropolises. More than 30 percent of the population commutes by bike. The government is taking steps to increase that impressive statistic even further by building a series of “bikeways” to connect the city with outlying suburban areas. Bike lanes already exist on each side of many of Copenhagen's streets, making it simple to get anywhere in the city on two wheels.

While the cycle lanes can sometimes be crowded (bike traffic is as much of a problem as vehicle traffic in this Scandinavian city) and bike parking is sometimes lacking in core areas, the overall infrastructure means that this is arguably one of the best cities in the world for getting around on a bike.

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Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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More than half of all the trips taken in central Amsterdam are on bicycles. With more than 250 miles of urban bicycle paths, many tourists are tempted to join the locals and see the city's sights from a bike saddle, even if they don't usually ride when at home.

Why do bikes rule in this city? Cycle paths often offer the quickest route between two attractions. Car parking fees are expensive in downtown Amsterdam and many streets are one way or completely off-limits to motorized traffic, so cycling is not only green, it’s the most convenient option for getting around.

Since so many tourists opt for bike-powered sightseeing excursions, a high number of shops in Amsterdam rent bikes specifically to visitors and are ready to provide route information and a crash course in the city's cycling rules.

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Curitiba, Brazil

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Curitiba, a mid-sized city in Southern Brazil, is known as one of the nicest places to live in South America. Large public green-spaces and an efficient public transportation system make it a pleasant place to visit as well. With an expansive network of bike paths, many separated from the car traffic by barriers, this is certainly one of the most cycle-friendly cities on the continent.

There are ambitious plans by the municipal government to add more than 150 additional miles of bike specific trails to the cycle infrastructure. Many neighborhoods are connected with one another by paths, so it is possible to get a taste of the city and visit its best attractions by simply hopping on a bicycle. Curitiba also has a lively bike culture, with many people actively using and promoting the bicycle as a means of transportation rather than merely a tool for exercise and recreation.

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Perth, Australia

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Perth sits in Western Australia, the opposite side of the continent from Sydney and the Gold Coast. This metropolis is one of the best places in the country for cyclists. Many main roads have bike lanes, while bike paths run parallel to major inner-city highways and train lines. This infrastructure makes it possible to go almost anywhere in Perth on a bike that you could get to on a car or train.

Hot summer temperatures can sometimes be an issue for visitors, but those who are prepared (with lots of water and sunscreen) can easily get to the major sights and attractions of Perth by bike. Programs like Perth's Bike to Work Challenge champion the use of bikes by local commuters and create a strong grassroots cycling movement in the city.

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Kyoto, Japan

Isado/flickr.

Urban Japan is certainly not the first place that comes to mind when people think of cycling. There is little room for bikes on Tokyo's or Osaka's crowded streets. Kyoto, one of Japan's most famous historic destinations and a big city in its own right, is another story, however. Tourists can get around quite easily on bicycle here. In fact, many locals choose two-wheelers as a convenient means of transportation that allows them to avoid traffic jams and the sometimes-crowded public transit system.

Central Kyoto, where places like the historic Nanzen-ji Temple are located, is relatively flat, so anyone with a decent map can explore the area by bicycle without worrying about working up a sweat. Sites like the bilingual Cycle Kyoto offer information for tourists who want to sightsee or who simply want to experience the historic ambiance from a bike saddle.

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Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Dicky/flickr.

Taiwan’s second city has a blossoming bicycle scene. Since it is flat and the streets are grid-like, getting around by pedal power is easy. The city government has made a concerted effort to promote cycling, creating bike paths throughout the city and also offering rentals outside of transit stations as part of the City-Bike (C-bike) program. With a membership card, people can rent a bike from an automated C-bike kiosk (pictured), ride it and then return it to any other kiosk in the city.

Many of Kaohsiung's paths are only for bicycles, so riders don’t have to contend with car traffic or even with many pedestrians. Kaohsiung even has a bike-specific bridge. With its infrastructure and ambitious plans to expand it even further, this city is certainly one of the best places for urban bicycle touring in East Asia.

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Berlin, Germany

LightOnDude /flickr.

Anyone who has been to Berlin knows that one of its main characteristics is its incredibly wide streets. This feature makes cycling in the city a breeze. Riders actually have space here; they are not confined to narrow bike lanes that double as a place for parking cars. Dedicated bike paths are off-limits even to pedestrians.

The sheer amount of room to pedal makes Berlin arguably one of the safest cities for cyclists in the world. There are even laws (and fines for breaking them) that are meant to increase safety and responsible among cyclists. Berlin is also quite flat, so tourists can cruise around the 400 miles of bike paths and get to all the city's best sights and attractions without breaking a sweat.

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Montreal, Canada

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Like Minneapolis, Montreal is a northern destination with a lively bike culture. With 300 miles of trails throughout the city, including paths that pass through tourist centers likes Old Montreal and the downtown area, there is certainly an infrastructure here to make bicycle-powered sightseeing possible.

Montreal boasts a number of dedicated bike paths, some with lane lines similar to those seen on roads. The bike scene does not slow down in winter, with the city removing snow from paths, sometimes even faster than it is plowed from the streets.