This post may contain affiliate links, which help to keep Discerning Cyclist rolling. Learn more.
Cycling is not merely a mode of transport but a lifestyle that promotes sustainable urban living and community engagement. In Europe, the love for cycling is deeply ingrained, with numerous cities leading the way in providing a safe and efficient cycling infrastructure.
Cycling enthusiasts and city planners constantly strive to create bike-friendly environments that encourage and prioritize cycling as a means of transportation. This doesn’t just have environmental repercussions locally and globally and contributes to a quality of life that makes cities more livable and safer for residents and visitors alike.
This article takes you on a journey through Europe’s top 20 bike-friendly cities, showcasing their commitment to bikes as a sustainable form of urban transportation. We’ll look at some information about each city, taking inspiration from all across Europe.
Is Europe Bicycle-Friendly?
Europe has long been recognized as a haven for cyclists, with its charming cities, scenic landscapes, and extensive cycling networks.
The continent on the whole has a reasonably progressive attitude when it comes to sustainable transportation, and cycling is almost always a part of the vision of a city to embrace this. European cities have largely been at the forefront in embracing cycling as an integral part of their urban fabric, making streets safer, and promoting a healthier lifestyle for their residents.
However, there’s an enormous variation within Europe. In the Netherlands, for example, cycling has a significantly higher mode share (26%) than in the UK (2%). Ghent has largely embraced its vision of a car-free city, while Bucharest remains congested by comparison.
There are also countries which are making greater efforts to improve the infrastructure for cyclists, investing in bike lanes, proficiency programmes and bike sharing systems. Seville has made great improvements to its bicycle infrastructure, and bike lanes now cover over 180km. Conversely, Dublin is still struggling to connect its bike network. In fact, it seems to be stagnating or even regressing when it comes to the promotion of cycling, and certainly isn’t one of the best cities for cycling in Europe.
Best Countries for Cycling in Europe
When it comes to bicycle-friendly countries in Europe, there are several countries that, on the whole, stand out as shining examples. These countries have embraced the bike as a means of transportation and recreation.
The Netherlands, of course, sets the gold standard for bicycle-friendly infrastructure and culture. Biking is so deeply ingrained in its culture, from the daily commute to the cargo bike that can drop the kids off at school, cycling has seemingly replaced the need for cars in some cities. It’s also probably home to the most bike-friendly cities in Europe.
Denmark is another excellent example. As a country, it placed strong emphasis on both cycle-centred urban planning and educational programmes that help to promote the viability and accessibility of everyday cycling. Copenhagen is often considered to be one of the most bike friendly cities in the world.
Sweden is also doing its part when it comes to cycling. Across the country, there are frequent campaigns, events, and initiatives that are introduced to get people onto two wheels and keep them there. Community engagement is at the core of such ideals.
Best Cycling Cities in Europe (Top 20)
Whilst there’s plenty of cities doing their part, there are a few that excel when it comes to cycling. Here’s our list of the top 20 best cycling cities in Europe.
1. Seville, Spain
One of Europe’s hottest cities, it probably comes as a surprise to some to see Seville beginning this list. But, it definitely shouldn’t.
Since 2003, the city has invested over €30 million in bicycle infrastructure, building more than 5000 bicycle parking spaces and over 180 km of cycle lanes and pathways (and a huge amount of them are exceptionally well protected!).
Manuel Calvo has been at the forefront of cycling in Seville, helping to plan and execute excellent cycle infrastructure that serves the needs of its residents and tourists. The network of interconnecting bike lanes sprawls across the city and has created links not only to working districts but also between historical monuments.
There are some strict rules in Seville for cyclists, such as banning the use of mobile phones while riding and prohibiting cycling without a bell. All these have made biking through the city an enjoyable and safe experience.
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
When it comes to cycle friendly cities, many people consider Copenhagen to be the city of choice.
The city has an incredible network of safe, connected bike lanes, super highways and innovative bridges, making it easy and convenient for people to choose cycling as the most efficient means of transport.
Safety is another key feature of Copenhagen’s bike culture. Citywide, there’s an increasing prioritisation of bikes and pedestrians over cars. Traffic calming measures have helped to create a space that’s suitable for all road users.
Copenhageners own nearly 750,000 bikes, which is five times more than cars! And the bikes are built for a purpose, too. A staggering 1 in 4 families in the capital own a cargo bike, an incredibly useful and economical bike for people striving to reduce their dependence on motor vehicles.
3. Krakow, Poland
In recent years, Kraków has been working hard on improving its cycling infrastructure and promoting cycling as a sustainable mode of transportation.
Poland’s capital has implemented over 240 km of cycle paths and bike lanes, and there’s reportedly been a fundamental change in motorists’ attitudes regarding cyclists. People are learning patience and the necessity of respectful coexistence for different road users.
Kraków’s relatively compact size and historical city centre make it a really suitable city for cycling. Many popular attractions and neighbourhoods are easily reached by bike, meaning that residents and visitors can commute as well as explore on two wheels.
Whilst it isn’t often listed as one of the friendliest cities to bike in, Kraków is definitely changing, and for the better. We’re seeing great things and we’re expecting more soon.
4. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is a great European city for cycling, and here’s why.
There are over 200 kilometres of bike lanes through the city, allowing easy access throughout. With flat terrain and mild climate (although it can get very hot in the summer!), it’s pretty easy to explore by bike.
Few people are more involved in the bicycle scene in the city than Sandra Llopart Nlas, Barcelona’s own bicycle mayor.
She’s been aiming to promote cycling to reduce both the congestion and the air pollution in the city, both aspects which Barcelona has previously struggled with.
The city is also home to a unique grid structure-like formation. Thanks to insightful urban planning, the ‘newer’ center has been reconstructed and rethought to section off whole blocks and prevent through-traffic from cars.
The result? More bikes and pedestrians on the now quieter and safer streets. And it’s not just been good for people; but businesses too.
5. Malmö, Sweden
Cycling in Malmö is quite unlike in other cities.
There’s been an incredible amount of investment in the infrastructure for cyclists, and now, there are over 500 km of bike paths within the city’s limits. A considerable amount of these are completely separate from traffic, meaning that they’re very safe.
There’s also been a huge success in the Malmö by Bike bike sharing scheme, amongst others, and thankfully the city is now more accessible than ever on two wheels.
Its residents are famed for being avid cyclists, and cycling is playing its part in creating an environmentally sustainable and green community in which to live. Cars are generally discouraged and even banned in some areas of the city.
The city hosts various cycling events, such as the Malmö Velodrome World Cup, which helps to promote cycling as a sport as well as a recreational activity. It’s truly a cyclists utopia.
6. Paris, France
The City of Love; one of the key initiatives in Paris is the expansion and improvement of cycling infrastructure. The city has been increasing the number of protected cycleways and bicycle lanes, making it safer for cyclists to navigate through the city.
With over 1000 km of bike lanes in the city constructed, there’s no question that they’re taking it seriously.
The city’s large-scale bike-sharing program, Vélib has also proved to be a hit. In 2022 alone, 4.7 million journeys took place on these bikes. It’s the world’s most extensive bike-sharing system, with over 19,000 bikes in the city (nearly half of which are electric).
Previously one of the most polluted capital cities in Europe, it’s now going to great lengths to shake that title.
France has also recently pledged €2 million to double (yes, you read that correctly) the amount of bike lanes across the country, so we can expect to see a number of those in the capital.
7. Oslo, Norway
One of the main reasons why Oslo is so bike-friendly is the presence of an extensive network of bike paths, bike lanes, and bike-friendly streets. These well-developed cycling infrastructure elements make it easy and safe for cyclists to navigate the city.
Additionally, Oslo’s compact size and short distances between the city center and the surrounding countryside make it convenient for people to explore the city by bike.
The city has an ambitious target of increasing cycle modal share to 25% by 2025, and by the way things are going, they’re well on their way to reaching that goal.
Oslo has also made pledges to become even safer. Its commitment to the ‘Vision Zero’ policy is inspiring for all cities across Europe.
Essentially, the VZ policy declares that in the modern age, any road traffic fatalities involving cyclists and pedestrians are simply unacceptable. From this premise, safety measures are installed to protect the most vulnerable road users.
In 2019, Oslo achieved its target of Vision Zero, making it now undeniably one of the safest and most secure places to cycle in not just Europe, but in the world.
8. Cambridge, England
Cambridge is a world-famous cycling destination, with more than half of its residents commuting on two wheels rather than four, far more than the national average. The city’s long history of two-wheel travel might even date back to Victorian times.
Cambridge has been named Britain’s best cycling city by Cycling Weekly magazine, which cited the measures implemented since the early 1970s by Cambridge’s local authority—including building new cycleways and bridges. Not only has it been a cyclists’ city for a long time, but it’s implementing measures to ensure that it remains one for years to come.
Cycling is a major mode of transport in the city, with many car-free areas that feel safer to riders.
The Cambridge Festival of Cycling, among other events, helps normalise cycling in the city and encourages people to see bikes as a viable alternative method of transportation.
The university city is known for its bright ideas, and investing in cycling is undoubtedly one of them.
9. Berlin, Germany
Berlin is perceived as cycle-friendly, partly due to the high bike ownership in the city. Only 1 in 3 people have a car in the city, but almost everyone has a bicycle.
The Berlin Senate has significantly increased its investment in cycling infrastructure, with over 30 million euros allocated in 2020, compared to under 5 million euros in 2016.
With its protected, clearly marked bright green bike lanes, as well as the ongoing project of constructing 100 km of cycle ‘superhighways’, Berlin is clearly investing in its future.
KoMoDo is one of the projects involved in creating such a vision. With quiet, space-saving cargo bikes that are committed to making the last mile trip of many deliveries across the city, Berlin is eliminating the need for excess motorised delivery vehicles.
Furthermore, since 2017, the senate has promised to construct 15,000 new bike stands in Berlin, meaning that bikes have a secure parking spot when they’re not in use.
10. Ghent, Belgium
Probably Belgium’s most bike-friendly city, Ghent has developed somewhat of a reputation for its commitment to cycling.
The city has made significant progress in promoting cycling as a mode of transportation. Ghent’s cycling modal share increased from 22% in 2012 to 35% in 2018, already surpassing its target for 2030!
It’s not often that you see that happening when it comes to pledges in politics.
Ghent has also made efforts to reduce the number of cars in the city centre by implementing measures that reduce through traffic. In fact, in some streets where cars are allowed, they are even prohibited from overtaking bicycles!
Ghent is also home to some fantastically cheap bike hire schemes, such as Fietsambassade, where you can rent and keep a bike serviced for a whole year for just €250!
The small city is easily navigated by bike and we couldn’t be happier about it.
11. Utrecht, Netherlands
When you think of bike-friendly cities in the Netherlands, Utrecht might not be the first name that comes to mind. But it should be.
In 2022, the city was named the most bike-friendly city in the world, surpassing Copenhagen. Bicycle usage is extraordinarily high in the city, and approximately 51% of the population uses bicycles regularly.
As of 2019, 96% of people owned a bike, and there was an average of 2.9 bikes per household. This number is suspected to be even higher now!
The city’s infrastructure is designed in such a way that bikes aren’t just accommodated, they’re the preferred means of transport. In the main train station for example, there’s an enormous 12,000 space bike garage for people to store their bikes.
quote: You really have the idea that people are the boss of the city, not the machines,” Lott van Hooijdonk
Streets that were initially designed for cars are regularly being repurposed to prioritize bicycles. It truly is a cyclist’s paradise as car dominance is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Utrecht is as close as you could imagine if there’s a role model for a cyclist city.
12. Vaduz, Liechtenstein
If you’re looking for a bike friendly city getaway, then Vaduz might just be the place for you.
What Vaduz lacks in its population and size it more than makes up for in its connections. It’s home to arguably some of the most scenic routes in the world for bicycles, and many of them serve to link the city to other cities, in the neighbouring Germany for example.
It’s an excellent choice for cyclists who want to explore a little and aren’t afraid to clock a few km in the saddle. Per 100,000 people, there are also over 2,800 established cycle routes, meaning that you’re not likely to get bored.
It’s also very healthy to cycle there. Vaduz boasts particularly low levels of air pollution (only 6.47 on the air pollution index).
With it’s stunning landscape and incredibly preserved historic centre, it’s worth a trip to Liechtenstein for any keen cyclist.
13. Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh is another bike-friendly city that has its infrastructure and geography to thank. It has a number of safe and exciting cycling routes, including former railway lines and sea-view esplanades.
Holyrood Park, for example, offers beautiful trails for off-road biking and Leith and Portobello, which are favourite cycling spots for locals and visitors alike.
It’s also easy to bike through Edinburgh between the major historic landmarks such as the castle and Arthur’s Seat.
In addition to the established cycle routes, the city has had significant infrastructure. Almost £6 million was spent between 2019 and 2021 on improving the cycle network. It also celebrates a high proportion of bike lanes as the total road network, measuring 4%!
It’s these features that make the charming city the most bike friendly city in Scotland.
14. Lisbon, Portugal
Despite the hilly terrain, Lisbon has made significant efforts to promote cycling as a mode of transportation. Extensive cycle paths have been built, from the city center to the outskirts.
The waterfront area has 20 kilometers of bike lanes, mainly used for recreation. Additional investment is planned to double the current 84 kilometers of bike lanes by 2030.
There’s also been a growing cultural shift towards using bicycles for transportation in Lisbon. The number of cyclists in the city increased by 25% between 2019 and 2020.
While improvements are still being made, Lisbon has taken steps to enhance cycling safety. They have designated bike paths separate from cars and pedestrians, with physical separation or clear markings, and the number of accidents involving cyclists is decreasing.
And these efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Lisbon’s efforts to create a more sustainable and bicycle-friendly city have been recognised. In 2020, the capital city won the European Green Capital Award for its commitment to sustainability and making the city more bicycle-friendly.
15. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdams status as a bike friendly city needs no explanation. It’s renowned globally for it’s bicycle culture, so deeply ingrained in its identity that it is.
Cycling is an absolute norm in the Dutch capital. People don’t have an aversion to bikes that they seem to in many other countries, such as the US, Canada, or even parts of the UK. Bicycles are so popular here that they outnumber humans, and it’s very common to have different bikes for different purposes.
The city has an expansive network of dedicated bike lanes totaling more than 500 km and an additional 200 km that bikes can use. Whereas in the late 20th century, congestion on the roads was the problem, the city now faces bike congestion, which is a phenomenon rarely seen elsewhere.
And the city is responding to these challenges, building more bicycle racks and parking spots to accommodate the spatial needs. In the vicinity of the central station alone, there are around 10,000 bicycle parking spots!
Cycling activism also dates back as early as the 1970s, and the city could not be more grateful for the foresight and planning that took place then. Now, the investment in time and money has paid off, and bicycles rule the city.
16. Bristol, England
Bristol is known within the UK to be a cycle-friendly city, and its progressive attitude towards cycling is reflected in the excellent infrastructure it has put in place—such as the Bristol–Bath Railway Path connecting the two cities.
In 2015, the city council also approved the Bristol Cycling Strategy—a set of policies that make it easier for people to choose cycling as a way to get around. Since then, there have been significant increases in the number of cycleways available, many of which prioritize cyclists over cars on busy roads.
Bristol’s cycling community is as active and vibrant as its music scene, for which it’s become legendary. The city has many groups and organizations advocating for cyclists’ needs—from organizing events to lobbying local government for riders.
One of the other exciting aspects of Bristol’s cycling scene is its bike hire systems. For example, outside the central station, you can hire a folding Brompton (a premium bike) to navigate the city. This doesn’t just help visitors but also allows prospective bike commuters to try a good quality bike at a reasonable price, getting more people out of their cars and onto two wheels.
17. Strasbourg, France
Move over Paris, because France has competition when it comes to bike friendly cities.
Strasbourg has an impressive network of bike paths that cover almost the entire urban area and total around 600 kilometers! It’s become so easy to bike in the new ‘cycling capital’ that work commutes on two wheels now approaches 20%.
Habits are changing in the city, and cycling is a big part of Strasbourg’s future. Increasingly, people there are looking towards more active modes of transport (walking included alongside cycling). It’s even something to brag about, as every year, local businesses compete to see who is the most bike-friendly!
The city’s parks, canals, and historical center are all easily navigated on two wheels or foot, meaning it easily deserves a spot on this list. It’s well worth a trip alone just for the beautiful cycle routes in and out of the city.
18. Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki, the capital of Finland, has taken steps to become a bike-friendly city by developing infrastructure and promoting cycling as a sustainable mode of transportation.
Helsinki has a well maintained bicycle network that covers the entire city, meaning it’s easily covered by bike. It’s also extremely well maintained, and there’s a strong commitment to preserving the bike paths even throughout the winter.
There’s regular snow ploughing to ensure that even during the winter months people can continue to cycle, and they do, despite the bitter cold. A bike is for all year around, not just for summer in Helsinki.
There are plans to expand the already large network considerably, and by 2026 there are plans to develop it throughout the outskirts of the city so that more people can comfortably commute longer distances by bike.
More than half of the city’s residents cycle every week, and in 2020 alone, there were over 1 million bike trips made. 19% of all work trips and 20% of all school trips are made by bike, and these numbers have been consistently rising since the 1990s. Helsinki certainly has a bright future ahead of it regarding cycling.
19. Munster, Germany
Germany has an excellent ‘outdoor’ culture, and is known as a country for both its love of hiking and of cycling. But Münster is renowned for being a particularly bike-friendly city, with several factors contributing to its reputation.
Münster offers a comprehensive network of well-maintained cycling infrastructure, including dedicated cycle paths and lanes. The city boasts around 4,500 kilometers of signposted cycle paths, allowing cyclists to navigate both within the city and in the surrounding parkland of Münsterland.
Cycling is deeply ingrained in Münster’s culture, with a significant proportion of the population actively using bicycles as their primary mode of transportation. The city has an estimated 500,000 bicycles, which surpasses its actual population.
Every day, an average of 100,000 cyclists take to the roads, a testament to the popularity of cycling as a preferred means of transport.
Münster has also received multiple accolades as the most bicycle-friendly city in Germany. The city has been awarded this title several times, which is a testament to its commitment to promoting and supporting cycling as a sustainable and practical mode of transportation.
20. Bern, Switzerland
Last but not least, we have the city of Bern in Switzerland.
Bern has developed an extensive network of well-maintained cycling infrastructure, including dedicated bike lanes, cycle paths, and bike parking facilities.
The most recognised route is probably ‘Wankdorf,’ where a separate bike lane supports a green wave. The idea of a green wave is that cyclists traveling at a given speed, in this instance, 20 km/h, will be met with consistent green lights. This helps to maintain the flow and rhythm of the ride. It’s a great model and is becoming popular across the whole continent.
Bern offers bike-sharing programs like PubliBike, which provide residents and tourists with easy access to bicycles for short trips in and around the city. It’s only a 10-minute cycle from the city centre to the rolling green meadows of the surrounding countryside, so it’s easy to hire a bike and get on the go when you need to escape the hustle and bustle.
Europe’s Most Improved Cycling City
Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, has shown remarkable progress in terms of being a bicycle-friendly city in recent years.
In 2013, only 4% of trips in the city were made by bike, but by 2019 this had increased to 13%. This shift reflects the significant investments in improving the city’s cycling infrastructure, such as expanding the bike lane networks and creating separate cycle paths, especially on busy roads.
Currently, almost 60 kilometres of new cycling lanes have been built or upgraded, with more improvements already in progress.
The city has made a commitment to promoting sustainable transportation, with cycling recognised as an important part of this effort. In 2013, the city initiated the “Bicycle-Friendly Ljubljana” project to improve cycling infrastructure and encourage cycling culture development.
As with any bike friendly city, it takes effort from both its residents and its lawmakers. Ljubljana has done really well in recent years to encourage cycling, and it seems very much to be a collaborative effort from both people and government. After all, getting more people to cycle is something that almost everyone can benefit from.