7 Cities Transforming Streets into Bike-Friendly Havens

Bicycle-friendly cities

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There are plenty of reasons for cities to invest in bikes. To counter pollution and congestion, enhance mobility, or even improve health among citizens.

Across the world, people are finally starting to appreciate the quiet power of the humble bicycle. 

This article will examine the top 7 cities with big plans to transform their streets into bike-friendly havens. 

What Makes a City ‘Bike-Friendly’?

We may think that good weather and a lack of hills are key foundations for a cycling city, and while they don’t hurt, there are some features that are far more important.

Infrastructure. According to MomentumMag, there’s one thing that bike-friendly cities have in common, and that’s bike lanes. Not only do they make cities more accessible for cyclists, but they make them considerably safer, especially when they’re physically separate from the road. Behind bike lanes, there needs to be safe places for people to keep their bicycles when not in use.

However, it’s also crucial to encourage and educate people on two wheels. These play an enormous role in building a culture of cycling.

Ken Mcleod, policy director for the League of American Cyclists puts it succinctly when he says, “In great bike-friendly cities, biking is normal.”

But outside of Copenhagen and Amsterdam, where are we seeing these transformations?

Bike Path Near Han River Seoul
Bike Path Near Han River Seoul. Image Credit: Canva Pro.

1. Seoul

Did you know that the South Korean capital, Seoul, has made huge improvements to its bike culture?

Ttareungyi Bike, the city’s public bike share system, is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Introduced in 2015, the fleet has since increased its size to over 43,000! And that’s not all. 

As demand has soared, investments have also been made to make them safer. More reflective tape and reflectors will be introduced to make users more visible, especially at night time.

For visitors, there are also some fantastic and approachable bike routes across the city, especially near and around the Han River.

Before 2025, there are also plans to renovate and extend the bike paths, separate them further from pedestrians, and legally implement a speed limit to stop reckless cyclists abusing the infrastructure.

Bike Lane in Oslo

2. Oslo

The ‘rising star’ for bicycle friendliness is the Norwegian capital of Oslo, according to the Copenhagenize index. Oslo shows that bicycles should be taken seriously no matter how hilly or snowy a city is.

With an ambitious 10-year bicycle plan expected to be finished in 2025, Oslo has transformed the inner city. They’ve removed 1000 car parking spots, banned cars entirely from the 1.3km square core, and invested in major traffic calming measures.

Everyone can also take advantage of subsidies to purchase cargo bikes, an enormous new secure storage facility in the central station, and a winter bike share project that offers bicycles with studded tires adapted for cycling in snowy or icy conditions.

Waterfront Promenade Bremen
Waterfront Promenade Bremen. Image Credit: Canva Pro

3. Bremen

Boasting the highest bike modal share in the whole of Germany at 25%, the North German city of Bremen has been going above and beyond to turn itself into a bike haven.

Thanks to the construction of 674 km of separate bike tracks that traverse the entire city, it’s easy to travel by bike wherever you need to go. Eight additional cross-city cycle routes are also planned for 2025.

Bremen, however, is doing something unique. To the tune of €2.4 million euros, they’ve introduced a bicycle zone where bikes have priority over other vehicles and can even ride side by side. This comes with tire pumping stations, improved road surfaces, and safer crossings! According to Eurocities, it now boasts the lowest nitrogen oxide levels of any large city in Germany! 

Bogotá cycling lane
Cycling Lane in Bogotá. Image Credit: Canva Pro

4. Bogotá

One of the unlikely suspects on this list is the Colombian capital of Bogotá.

Against the odds, it’s going to enormous lengths to create a safer and friendlier environment for cyclists. First off, there’s a weekly organized Ciclovía, where hundreds of kilometers of roads are closed to car traffic, and bikes and pedestrians can have a glimpse of a cycling haven.

The existing bike network of over 500km is continually growing, and the city bicycle manager David Uniman hopes to see modal share hit 10%; that’s 1 million trips a day by bike

According to research by Inrix, it’s one of the most congested cities in the world, so the city is clearly fighting an uphill battle. But thanks to the people’s consistent activism and the local government’s generally positive response, a cycling dream is soon becoming a reality.

Pedestrian and Cycling Paths in Helsinki Seen From Above
Pedestrian and Cycling Paths in Helsinki Seen From Above. Image Credit: Canva Pro

5. Helsinki

The Finnish capital ambitiously aims to be the world’s best metropolis for sustainable transport, with bikes playing a key role. And it’s well on its way there.

With nearly 1,500 kilometers of bike lanes, including an innovative bicycle highway converted from a disused railway track, the city is incredibly accessible by bike. In fact, it’s proven to be such a success that the local bike share program has grown 7-fold since 2016!

And it’s secure. According to one source, 74% of residents report that they feel safe cycling in the city.

The Deputy Mayor for Transportation, Anni Sinnemäki, stated that she wants to create a city where nobody needs to have a car. If Helsinki continues at the rate it’s going, that might happen.

Bicycle Alley In Montreal.
Bicycle Alley in Montreal. Image Credit: Canva Pro.

6. Montreal

North America isn’t a continent famed for bike-friendly cities, but if there’s one determined to change that, it’s Montreal.

The cultural hub of French Canada has been slowly gaining traction, but since a 2017 electoral success based on bike infrastructure and public transport investment, Mayor Valérie Plante has been accelerating change.

As the first city on the continent to build protected bike lanes, as far back as the 80s, it has a history of bikes. According to the Copenhagenize Index, some neighborhoods even see a modal share above 15%, which is incredibly high for North America. 

While its vast network of over 900 km of bike lanes needs some modernizing, plans are to extend it to the outlying districts to connect the city further. 

Montreal is still behind the European cities on this list, but over the next few years, we are likely to see some significant change across the city.

Street in Fortaleza
Street in Fortaleza. Image Credit: Canva Pro

7. Fortaleza

The Brazilian coastal city of Fortaleza is the one to watch when it comes to rethinking urban mobility.

What started with cyclists painting informal bike lanes on the street has now sparked a huge movement. Between 2014 and 2022, the city expanded its cycle network from 68 km to 400 km, an increase of almost 500%. By the end of 2024, there are plans to increase this by a further 200 km and introduce 100 safe intersections for cyclists.

To combat the heat, they’ve also introduced a pioneering device popularly known as the ‘Xiringador’. The idea is to spray water to help keep cyclists cool when riding, making cycling more comfortable.

And, after being awarded a $1 million prize from the Bloomberg Initiative for Cycling Infrastructure, we can expect to see big developments.

While there’s still plenty of work to be done, major cities are getting people out of their cars and onto two wheels, making metropolises more liveable and practical for cyclists. Time will tell if they’ll succeed.

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