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The Urban Cycling Paradises

By Vratislav Šlapák

Looking for a convenient, cheap, and healthy way to get around? Get where you need to be, fast and safe, along with your oxygen fix by biking. It pays off more than you know, provided the town or city you live in is ‘bike-friendly’ that is, but how can you tell?

There is a simple general rule of thumb claiming that if you are afraid of cycling, then your town or city is probably not very bike-friendly. If not, there would be all sorts of temptations to get your ‘lycra’ on. Now that local politicians are talking it up and with a dense network of cycle paths, there’s little reason not to join the hundreds of other cyclists safely pedaling about.

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(Photo: WeLoveCycling.com)

The traditional world-leaders in urban cycling, Amsterdam, where you would be hard pressed to find someone ‘bikeless’, have been kept on their toes in recent years by Copenhagen. The term ‘Copenhagenize’ is the address name of a popular cyclo-blog and has become part of the local vernacular. The website features a ‘Copenhagenize Index’, which measures just how bike-friendly cities really are.

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(Photo: WeLoveCycling.com)

The index provides a summary of data from a total of thirteen categories including local cycling advocacy, bicycle infrastructure, gender split, the political climate and efforts for overall ‘traffic calming’ in the city. Amsterdam is the perennial winner, closely followed by Copenhagen, with Utrecht taking the imaginary bronze. Utrecht, which only has 640,000 inhabitants, has witnessed a huge boom in cycling in recent years, the result of careful planning, and is now considered a role model for “Copenhagenization” in smaller European towns and cities.

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(Photo: WeLoveCycling.com)

You might be surprised to see Seville, Spain trotting up in fourth place. It may be hot down there, but Seville is also a virtual showcase of what can be achieved through planning modern cycling infrastructure, political will and compromise and whatever strikes a chord with the locals. The result is that the modal share of cyclists has shot up over the past eight years (from 0.5% to 7%). Like everywhere else, however, developments in Seville primarily hinge on political will. Case in point, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is personally promoting London’s new ‘cycle superhighways’, which run right across the city, allowing cyclists to get from the outskirts into the city center, but even all that effort didn’t get London into the Index Top Ten.

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(Photo: WeLoveCycling.com)

How did the Copenhagenize Index come about? “We wanted to offer the solutions we came up with in Copenhagen at the international level, so we introduced an international ranking based on our criteria,” explains copenhagenize.com founder Mikael Colville Andersen. He earned himself a worldwide reputation as the ‘Ambassador of Urban Cycling’, ensuring Copenhageners bike over two million kilometers every day! “Nothing has changed here. All that has happened is that the Internet has made Copenhagen the world’s cycling capital. That is the power of global media. Thanks to what we have been doing, cycling has become a political hot potato and now forms part of the urban development debate.”

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(Photo: WeLoveCycling.com)

The best bike friendly cities according to Copenhagenize Index are Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Utrecht, Seville, Bordeaux, Nantes, Antwerp, Eindhoven, Malmö, Berlin, Dublin and Tokyo, as the largest city and also the only Asian one in the Top Ten.

If the name of your town or city is not there, then it is perhaps time to get on your bike and go and make some noise about it. You do not have to be an engineer, politician, or bike-nut to realize that ‘Copenhagenization’ has benefits. “We are also facing a constant struggle to keep Copenhagen bike-friendly. New politicians come in and everyone wants something different, but our goals remain the same. Increase bike’s modal share and in so doing make our city a nicer place to live,” Mikael explains as we ended by wishing him good luck in his honorable endeavors.