Even if you’ve already been to a city before, seeing it from a bicycle can give you an entirely different experience. If that’s not enough of a reason to try cycling when you travel, then maybe the savings could entice you: renting a bike is much more cost-effective than hailing a cab or using a ride-share app. Consider pedaling your way through these bike-friendly cities on your next trip.
The Copenhagenize Index is a biannual listing of the top 20 most bike-friendly cities in the world, scoring cities based on streetscape (infrastructure and facilities), culture (rules and safety) and ambition (advocacy and urban planning). The 2019 list includes Tokyo at no. 16, the highest rank of any Asian city.
While the Japanese city has numerous designated bike lanes, the Copenhagenize Index gives it points for its people: “In the world’s largest metropolis, there are millions and millions of people on their bicycles, using their Mamachari utility bikes to carry goods and children, going to the store, school or train stations.”
Bonus trip tip: though not in the Top 20, neighboring Osaka and Kyoto are filled with cycling locals, from school-age children to suited salarymen to old ladies. These cities have largely flat terrain and streets that are fairly easy to navigate on two wheels.
Taipei lands at no. 17 on the Copenhagenize Index, backed by a successful bike-share scheme, better cycling infrastructure and local government support. Not only does the city have wide pavements, cheap bike rentals and convenient rest stops but it also offers access to scenic routes like the Keelung River Bicycle Trail. More serious cyclists might want to check out Taiwan Cycling Route No. 1, which starts off at Songshan Station in Taipei.
A few decades ago, China was known as the Kingdom of the Bicycle, with hundreds of millions of bike owners. But as the country became more urbanized and economically prosperous, it evolved into a kingdom of cars with massive traffic jams, particularly in big cities like Beijing. To avoid the stress of sitting in traffic and queueing at train stations, many people took to bike-sharing, which may have led to the rise in bicycle traffic share in 2017 in Beijing for the first time in many years.
Travelers may be hesitant to get on a bike in Beijing as bicycles share space with speedy scooters. But since a bicycle highway opened in 2019, cyclists have had a safer space to ride. The highway is a 6.5-km elevated, cycling-only road, connecting Huilongguan to Shangdi and giving thousands of commuters a safe and convenient option for traversing the city. The length of the highway is set to be doubled to 13km, stretching all the way to Xizhimen.
Singapore’s Ministry of Transport has been working for years to make cycling safer and more convenient. Their National Cycling Plan aims to connect 16 Housing and Development Board (HDB) towns by this year and all HDB towns by 2030 — a whopping 700km of off-road cycling paths in all! They’ve also installed thousands of bike racks at train stations and hundreds of bicycle parking lots, making cycling a viable option for the average commuter (and traveler!).
The city of Melbourne in Australia boasts 135km of on- and off-road routes. Their website states that they are investing in new and upgraded bike paths, lanes and routes, and partnering with the Victorian government to speed up the delivery of 40km of protected bike lanes to help people get around safely during the pandemic.
You can get a comprehensive guide to their cycling routes and facilities here for when travel to Melbourne opens up again.
In the Philippines, Iloilo is leading the way with an 11km bike lane on their national highway and selected roads. While some lanes are marked by lines, the one on the main thoroughfare is protected from motor vehicles by plants and bollards.
As the Dutch are known for their bike-friendly roads (Amsterdam comes in at no. 2 on the Copenhagenize Index), the local government has worked with the Dutch Embassy to improve the city’s urban planning and make it even more bike-friendly. Iloilo aims to add 32.68km to its network of bike lanes, cementing its status as the Bike Capital of the Philippines.