Simply put, riding a bike is fun. As a bonus, biking saves gas dollars as well as the environment. But what about urban biking?
In many countries, more people ride bikes than drive cars. In Japan, for example, an estimated 3 million bikes are parked daily in special parking garages, several times greater than the number of commuter cars. In fact, with their designated cycling areas and established community events, many global cities are decidedly bike-friendly.
* San Francisco, CA
Possibly one of the world’s bike-friendliest cities, San Francisco is not only the founding city of Critical Mass, the name for mass bike rides that take place in cities around the world, but it has also removed car parking to make room for bike parking and created a bike share program. As a result, bicycle collisions have declined while the number of bike commuters has nearly doubled over the past ten years.
* Portland, OR
Portland has earned the top ranking in several “best cities for cycling” lists. Around six percent of the population commutes by bike, taking advantage of the many bike lanes and “bicycle boulevards” (side streets with low speed limits). There are so many dedicated bike paths that cyclists can go for miles without ever seeing a car. In short, this is a great city to travel by bike!
* Boulder, CO
This beautiful city, with the backdrop of the dramatic Rocky Mountains, is also a cyclist’s paradise. The city dedicates 15 percent of its transportation budget to improving and promoting bicycle travel. The results are impressive: almost every major roadway has a designated cycling area, and there is a pilot program to get kids biking to school.
* Amsterdam, Netherlands
This city, where over half of all the trips in the city center are on bicycles, has made safe cycling a priority. It boasts more than 250 miles of urban bicycle paths, which are often the quickest route between two attractions. As an added incentive to take your bike, it’s really expensive to park your car in downtown Amsterdam and numerous streets are either one way or completely off-limits to cars. Way to go!
* Berlin, Germany
In Berlin 400,ooo people already bike to work every day, while the city is busy pouring millions more euros into encouraging even more cyclists to get on the streets. Berliners love to bike because there is a mapping website that helps you plot bike-specific routes, and a great bike infrastructure that includes bike paths and places to lock up your bike.
* London, UK
London’s public bike sharing scheme debuted in July 2010 with 5,000 bicycles and 315 docking stations distributed across the City of London area and parts of eight London boroughs. Barclays Cycle Hire two-wheelers are popularly known as ‘Boris Bikes,’ after Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. Currently there are some 8,000 cycles and 570 docking stations in the scheme.
* Paris, France
Paris has also launched its own program for bike sharing, on a much bigger scale. Vélib’ is one of the world’s largest public bicycle rental programs, with twenty thousand very cute bikes distributed throughout the city at 1,450 different rental stations. Rates vary, but rides under 30 minutes are free.
* Copenhagen, Denmark
Biking is very popular in this city, where more than a third of the population commutes by bike. Bike lanes already exist on each side of many Copenhagen streets, but the next plan is to build a series of “bikeways” to connect the city with suburban areas. That’s why so many people love getting around on a bicycle!
Located in Western Australia, the opposite side of the continent from Sydney, Perth is one of the best places in the country for cyclists. Australia’s fourth largest city has more than 700 kilometers of bike routes: main roads often have bike lanes, while bike paths run parallel to major inner-city highways and train lines.
* Kyoto, Japan
I wasn’t a cyclist when I visited this beautiful, historic city several years ago, but I was struck by the number of people on bikes I saw, both locals and tourists. Cycling is a popular way to avoid some pretty bad traffic jams, and the even more crowded public transit system.
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