Cycling in Sydney
Photograph: juancsanchezherrera /

11 of the most bike-friendly cities in the world

Four wheels bad, two wheels good. These beautiful bike-friendly cities are perfectly set up for all-day cycling

John Bills

More people should be riding bikes – because they’re awesome. The age of the motorcar is spluttering to a noisy end, and the old-fashioned stylings of the humble bicycle are ready to take centre stage once again. As the incorrectly-remembered quote famously goes: ‘Four wheels bad, two wheels good.’

There is a little bit of wishful thinking about this, of course. Most of the world’s cities are still defined by traffic jams and private cars, but some forward-thinking places are falling in love with the bicycle all over again. The most bike-friendly cities in the world are mostly in Europe, but there are spots in the USA and Australia that are slowly catching up. Here are our faves.

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The most bike-friendly cities in the world

Europe’s best city for cyclists? The proverbial mantlepiece of the Finnish capital is filled with such trophies. Helsinki is home to the Baana bicycle corridor – more than 1,200km of bike lanes weaving in and out of the city. It offers gorgeous rides that allow locals and visitors alike the opportunity to explore one of the most beautiful capitals on the Continent. Cycling along the waterfront is particularly delightful.

Oslo has revitalised its cycling scene in recent years. For a long time, the Norwegian capital lagged behind contemporaries when it came to biking, but ambition has since taken over in the form of restructured transport links, lanes and networks. Oslo is a fairly small city – but a gorgeous one too – and the relatively mild climate (outside of winter) makes it a joy to cycle around.


Okay, so cycling up and down all those hills doesn’t exactly sound like heaps of fun, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. San Francisco is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US, a compact charmer with high-quality cycling facilities and a more-than-decent safety record when it comes to getting from A to B on two wheels. Be sure to explore the nearby Muir Woods Loop, one of the most stunning bike routes in California. 

4. Ljubljana

Small but perfectly formed, Ljubljana has well and truly embraced the bicycle. The entire city centre is free of traffic, while heading away from the centre of town opens up heaps of possibilities for enjoying a bike ride or two. Ljubljana is one of Europe’s most adorable cities, a sustainability-focused delight with cycling in its heart. The BicikeLJ bike-sharing system is a great way to hop on and hop off to your heart’s content.


5. Utrecht

In Utrecht, bikes come first. Around a third of the city’s 350,000 people get around by bike every single day, a direct result of city planning focused on encouraging two-wheel travel for a more sustainable future. The proof is in the pudding, although in this case, the pudding is specialised bike lanes that accentuate choosing two wheels over four. Utrecht is the fastest-growing city in the Netherlands, and new generations of Utrechters are exploring their city by bike. Mighty beautiful place too.

The most bike-friendly city in the US? The assumption might be Portland, Chicago, maybe the hills of San Francisco, but it is the bigger side of the Twin Cities that takes the biscuit. Minneapolis has more cycling infrastructure than anywhere else in the country, an abundance of bikes available and more trails per square mile than any other spot in the US. Sure, it gets pretty darn cold here in winter and only the hardiest will hit the lanes when the snow is falling, but Minneapolis is a cycling charmer throughout the rest of the year. 


Okay, okay, we held out long enough, but any self-respecting collection of bike-friendly cities across the globe revolves around Copenhagen. The Danish capital wrote the book on designing a cycling-centric city, to the point where the index for judging the bike-friendliness of a city was actually named after the place. Cycling is a point of pride here, with around 50 percent of all trips to work or school made on two wheels. The power of infrastructure is alive and well, with a focus on safe connections that makes cycling a no-brainer.

When it comes to forward-thinking developments, Portland is never far away from the spotlight. Alternative approaches are the norm around here, and embracing bikes is another day at the office for Portlanders. The bike lanes around the city make it very easy to get around on two wheels, and the city is surrounded by gorgeous scenery that is best explored on two wheels. 


Amsterdam and bikes go together like magnet and steel, and a day in this famous old city is one of cycling celebration. The Dutch capital was ahead of the game when it came to biking infrastructure, building lanes and encouraging bicycle use while other cities were still figuring out how to cram more cars onto the streets. Familiarise yourself with the traffic rules before hitting the lanes, though, as you don’t want to fall foul of the Amsterdam traffic police. 

10. Bordeaux

There are heaps of reasons to visit Bordeaux, from the blossoming gourmet scene to the conveyor belt of fantastic museums and galleries. Why not explore it all via the freedom of a bicycle? This is France’s most bike-friendly city, after all, and one of the easiest to cycle around on the planet. Who wouldn’t want to cycle gleefully through a vineyard, before returning to the city for a delicious coffee in a bike workshop? There are plenty of bike tours in Bordeaux, and the sheer abundance of bicycles speak volumes to its nature.


Okay, other European cities are arguably more bike-friendly, from Antwerp to Strasbourg, but why not look further afield to a city working hard to embrace the magic of the bicycle? Sydney is as far away from Europe as you’re getting, and the Australian wonder is improving infrastructure all the time. There’s no shortage of bike rental options here, so pick one up and cycle the seas and the city with the wind blowing through those luscious locks (provided you have luscious locks, of course). Every year sees an increase in the number of Sydney cyclists, and there’s never a bad time to jump on this bandwagon.

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