The 20 Most Bike-Friendly Cities in the World

Some urban areas excel at making it easier for residents to put the pedal to the two-wheeled metal.
(Photo: Copenhagenize Design Company)
Jun 20, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

There’s no denying that it’s easier for people to pedal their way from home to school or work in some places than in others. In the past year, France has paid people to bike to their jobs, and some Swedish towns have given residents free bike coaches who teach them how to safely navigate car-filled streets—all in the hope of reducing lung-choking smog. But those efforts aren’t enough to earn those places the top spot in the 2015 Copenhagenize Index, the most comprehensive inventory and ranking of bike-friendly cities in the world.

According to the index, Copenhagen is the most bike-friendly city on the planet, knocking Amsterdam out of the No. 1 spot. The Danish capital is packed with crosstown bike lanes and bicycle bridges and is “impressively consistent in its investment in cycling as transport and in making efforts to push it to the next level,” wrote the index’s authors.

Indeed, the transformation from car-reliant city to haven of biking that Copenhagen has made over the past 40 years is impressive. Forty-one percent of residents ride their bikes to school or to work, and 55 percent bike every day, according to the Copenhagenize blog.

The biannual index was created in 2011 by Copenhagenize Design Company, a European consulting firm, as a tool for internal use on projects. But the company soon realized that the information it was collecting could be used to help various municipalities track bike policy effectiveness, share ideas, and learn from one another.

This year the index ranked 122 urban centers around the globe with populations of 600,000 or more according to how they stack up in 13 different categories. Some of the classifications are no-brainers, such as whether a city has the proper bicycle facilities and infrastructure. Places with bike racks in public places, space for people to put their bikes while they’re riding on public transportation, and dedicated bike lanes all garner higher scores.

However, the index also takes into consideration criteria that many people might not think of, such as the gender split of cyclists in a city. If bikers are mostly men, a place earns a lower score.

RELATED: Are Women Really Less Likely to Bike to Work?

So, Why Should You Care? The easier it is for people to get around on bicycles, the more likely they are to ditch their smog-spewing vehicles. With about 7 million people per year worldwide dying from the ill effects of air pollution, according to the World Health Organization, many cities are feeling the pressure to make it easier for residents to abandon their cars.

Where is it a relative breeze to bike in the United States? New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon, are all becoming more amenable to cyclists. But only one U.S. city managed to crack the top 20.

Minneapolis is the most bike-friendly city in the U.S. and is the 18th-most bike-friendly place in the world, according to the index. Key to Minneapolis’ ranking are the hundreds of miles of dedicated bike lanes the city has added in recent years. Its impressive bike-sharing system has also propelled it into the upper echelons of cycling nirvana.

Curious what other cities are seriously hospitable to cyclists? Check out the index’s top 20 below.