The Most Bike-Friendly Cities in 2015

10. Seville, Spain

For a few years, Seville was the poster child of the bicycle urbanism world after boldly showing it was possible to slap bicycles back onto the urban landscape in a short amount of time. As legend would have it, the city went from 0.2% modal share for bikes to 7% in just a few years – made possible by intrepid political will, investment in a broad network of bicycle infrastructure, and a comprehensive bike share system. That foundation is still in place but Seville slips to a respectable tenth place from a lofty fourth. Simply because the status quo that seems to affect all manner of cities seems to have slowed the development pace. Shooting for 15% or more shouldn’t be a problem and should be a priority. Seville is still interesting but by resting on their laurels they will lose important momentum and the world will seek out inspiration elsewhere. One positive note is that the region of Andalusia in which Seville is located is looking at copying the success and hopes to roll out an impressive regional network of cycling infrastructure for transport. Doesn’t help Seville in this ranking though.

9. Antwerp, Belgium

The best large city in Belgium for cycling, Antwerp has a firm grip on the Top 20 index, even though they’ve slipped two places in 2015. The positive politics that came out of City Hall since the last Index in 2013 have dried up with the last election. There is actually talk from the current politicians about how to get more cars into the city centre. Seriously. In 2015. Clear influences from across the border in The Netherlands have given the city an impressive modal share for bicycles and the bicycle as transport is embraced by all ages and wages. There are ample parking facilities around the city and the train station parking remains one of the best in Europe. The citizens have excellent opportunities to use bike share systems, as well. Smaller cities, like Ghent, were not ranked but as far as larger cities go, Antwerp deserves its ranking as one of the best cities in the world.

8. Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux retains its place in the Top 20 this time round, but they drop three spots to #8. The city came out of nowhere and started giving Strasbourg a run for their money as one of the best cities for cycling in France. Some of the momentum that pushed Bordeaux up the list last time is still around, but the city seems to have geared down a bit. What the city has achieved in the past few years is still remarkable. A firm investment in infrastructure and facilities have given Bordeaux a brilliant bicycle urbanism boost. Bordeaux continues to take bicycle transport seriously. The city’s investment in several tram lines has, of course, helped boost cycling by providing a traffic calming effect. Bordeaux’s bike share system VCub rolls on and Bordeaux is still focused on marketing cycling to the mainstream as opposed to the sub-cultures through effective advocacy. A great gender split rounds off a respectable score.

7. Nantes, France

Nantes has embarked on an impressive journey. They rocked onto the Copenhagenize Index in 2013 because of clear political will and investment in infrastructure and facilities. They are maintaining that, although they slip one place on the 2015 Index. We’re impressed by the efforts from the City and the diversity of projects they have implemented. Not just infrastructure but services, and a clear collaboration with local associations. The City is also dedicated to traffic calming, which only serves to make cycling a more attractive option. The main boulevard is now virtually car-free for through traffic and the City has added a demonstrative cycle track down the middle. It’s certainly not anywhere near Best Practice, but the iconic value is important. It is clear that the City is putting money where its mouth is. While scores of other cities around the world are content with baby steps like putting in one cycle track on one street, Nantes is going all in. They understand not just the necessity of modernising their transport for rising urbanization but also the branding value of being a city who is changing fast for the future. They are chasing Strasbourg and competing with Bordeaux for becoming France’s best city for cycling. Momentum provides a tailwind.

6. Malmö, Sweden

Sweden’s third-largest city has been wise to look west across the Øresund to Copenhagen for inspiration, as opposed to north to Gothenburg and Stockholm. The latter two cities are huddled near mid-table and offer little in the way of innovation or political will, in sharp contrast to Malmö. The main city in Sweden’s most bicycle-friendly region – Skåne – Malmö has been insistent on reestablishing the bicycle on the urban landscape. Their efforts have been rewarded with a climb up the Index to #6.

A highlight since 2013 was the opening of a bicycle parking facility at the train station that makes even Copenhagen look awkward. Since 2013 there has been continued focus on investment. Many of the City’s projects over the past few years remain impressive when measured against global competition. Their No Ridiculous Car Trips behavioural campaign is still a benchmark for communication. A dedication to infrastructure is impressive, as well as designed facilities for bicycle use. They remain balanced on helmet promotion, in contrast to Stockholm and Gothenburg, which serves to encourage cycling.

Despite a rise on the ranking, we have heard of a waning interest from politicians to keep moving forward and our alarm bells are ringing. Investment risks being reallocated and plans for more visionary projects are becoming fewer and farther between. When you come this far, you don’t stop.

5. Eindhoven, Netherlands

When we think of Eindhoven we think of no-nonsense consistency. Cycling in the city is steady and strong. The Floating Roundabout captured our imagination and we are looking forward to what else the city can produce that is functional and iconic. Eindhoven rolls upwards in this version of the Index but really only because of a lack of innovation by the cities around it in the ranking, rather that its own efforts. The classic Dutch status quo is firmly in place in the city. Eindhoven can take solace in the fact that other, smaller Dutch cities like Nijmegen and Groningen are not included in the ranking.

4. Strasbourg, France

Despite being new to the Copenhagenize Index this year, Strasbourg has long been the premier cycling city in France. The yardstick that all other cities have – often reluctantly – measured themselves by. We have literally heard planners in other cities grumble that Strasbourg is “half-German”, as though that was an excuse for their high cycling levels. What Strasbourg has achieved, however, is the result of a generation of planners who have insisted on cycling as transport. They have planted the seeds and the garden is blooming.

Cycling in Strasbourg is a pleasant affair and, as it should be, the quickest way from A to B. There are 536 km of cycle routes in the city and surrounding metro area and the city has a unique bike share system. Vélhop lets you get a bike share bike from docking stations but also has long term rental. We don’t think we’ve seen a city with so many bike share bikes on the streets, including many customised with added kids’ seats and baskets. The city enjoys 15% modal share in the city centre and 8% in the metro area and it is unique in that there are more cargo bikes than in most cities in Europe.

There is consistent political will to at the least maintain current cycling levels. What remains to be seen is whether the city has what it takes to take things to the next level and achieve the cycling rates seen in the Netherlands and Denmark. France – indeed every country – needs a leader to follow. One city that insists on improving and provides inspiration for the rest. Strasbourg has rested on their laurels for a number of years but now is the time to go further.

3. Utrecht, Netherlands

Utrecht remains in a steady third place in the 2015 Copenhagenize Index. Utrecht continues to be a world-leader among smaller cities. Like most Dutch cities, the status quo is firmly in place and while it is at an amazing level, the city seems content with that. Their development plan called “Utrecht Attractive and Accessible” is a step in the right direction for progress but it falls short of legendary and is content with being sensible.

Utrecht seems to understand how to mix necessity with headlines, something that Amsterdam is still figuring out. The world’s largest bike parking facility, with space for 12,500 bikes is under construction. Something we think is brilliant. When the city figures out how to get rid of the long stretches with brain-rattling cobblestones and to make a uniform infrastructure network that is more intuitive, Utrecht will certainly step out of Amsterdam’s shadow.

2. Amsterdam, Netherlands

It’s always been neck and neck between Amsterdam and Copenhagen but Amsterdam is relegated to second place in the 2015 Copenhagenize Index. While the city finished with a higher baseline score, it lagged behind in the race for bonus points. Amsterdam, like most Dutch cities, suffers from their insistence on maintaining a status quo, rather than trying to improve, think modern and take things to the next level.

One of the world’s benchmark cities for cycling, Amsterdam has a leadership role for what they have done, as opposed to what they are doing and planning. Looking down the Top 20 list, there are cities who have gone from zeros to heroes in a short amount of time. Amsterdam must act in order to show the world how to continue developing, otherwise other cities will take over the innovation role. Instead of constant grumbling over all those bikes, see it as an opportunity and a unique selling point.

1. Copenhagen, Denmark

After finishing second in the last two Copenhagen Index rankings, Copenhagen edges Amsterdam into first place. The Danish capital remains impressively consistent in its investment in cycling as transport and in making efforts to push it to the next level. With regards to a uniform network of urban design for bicycles, Copenhagen is unrivalled in the world. The clear leadership we missed in the 2013 ranking is once again in place with the election of Morten Kabell as Mayor of the Technical & Environmental Administration (DoT). Clear visions have emerged and the City is again moving forward.

Copenhagen’s base score remains largely steady, with one notable exception. The city’s modal share leapt from 36% to 45% between 2012 and 2014. A 9% increase in modal share in such a short time.

Add to that continued investment in new infrastructure. A bicycle bridge over a motorway north of the city. Two new bridges – Trangravsbroen and Proviantbroen – over the canal opened in December 2014. The famous Cykelslangen – or Bicycle Snake – an elevated bike ramp that has captured the citizens’ imagination and provided an important mobility link across the harbour. Four new bicycle bridges are on the way. Cross-town routes are being upgraded. A bold attempt is being made to use bicycle travel times as the baseline for all traffic lights and flow projections, instead of car travel times as has been the norm for decades.