As much as we fancy a western European city that's successfully outlawed motorized vehicles and gifted every one of its residents a bicycle, where roads become bike lanes and gas stations become SAG stops, this "cycling utopia" doesn't exist. Not yet, anyway.
With the culture of cycling on the rise and greater demand for more economically and ecologically friendly transportation, many cities have taken steps to invest in infrastructure that supports two-wheel travel. Cities, perhaps now more than ever, see the many benefits their residents reap from a cycling-compatible culture. A city of cyclists offers people social, environmental, health and economic benefits equaling 23 cents per every kilometer cycled. Many cities acknowledge and champion cycling's importance. Others don't.
Every two years the Copenhagen Design Company, under the guise of the Copenhagen Index, releases a list of 20 cities. Ranked from first to 20th, these cities are, according to a long, arduous study, the most bike-friendly places in the world. Each of the following cities advocates for cyclists via programs, facilities, infrastructure, safety and urban planning.
10. Seville, Spain1 of 11
According to the Index, "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." Seville now boasts 7 percent of residents commuting to work via bikes and has invested in a broad network of infrastructure and a fantastic bike-share system.
9. Antwerp, Belgium2 of 11
The best city in Belgium to cycle, according to the study, Antwerp offers cyclists ample parking facilities, bike share programs and accommodating cycling routes. Unfortunately, recent politics in the city have changed, and they're even talking about ways to increase automobile traffic near the city center. This would explain their two-place drop from 2013.
8. Bordeaux, France3 of 11
According to the Index, "A firm investment in infrastructure and facilities has given Bordeaux a brilliant bicycle urbanism boost." A brilliant bike-share program called VCub and a conscious effort to market cycling to the mainstream also gives Bordeaux major points in the advocacy department.
7. Nantes, France4 of 11
Nantes has employed a well-used tool that effectively promotes cycling within the city. This tool is traffic calming, the art of purposefully slowing down motor vehicle traffic with stoplights, speed bumps and narrowed roads. They've also successfully eliminated motor vehicle traffic altogether from certain roads, including the city's main boulevard.
6. Malmo, Sweden5 of 11
One of the most politically active cities, Malmo's No Ridiculous Car Trips campaign is now the template for behavioral advocacy. The city also recently constructed a bicycle parking facility at the train station and continues to invest in infrastructure and facilities for cyclists.
5. Eindhoven, Netherlands6 of 11
Home to one of the most far-out cycling structures in the world, the floating roundabout, Eindhoven is the third Dutch city to grace the Index. Of course, a lot of people cycle in Eindhoven, but what about that roundabout? The floating roundabout is a suspension bridge that allows cyclists to "float" over busy traffic at an intersection—perhaps a sign of things to come in future urban planning.
4. Strasbourg, France7 of 11
Step aside, Paris, this small city that borders Germany is the capital of cycling in France. Like many of the cities on this list, cycling in Strasbourg is the quickest way from point A to point B. In addition, there are 565 km of cycling routes and the city offers a phenomenal bike-sharing program.
3. Utrecht, Netherlands8 of 11
A small Dutch city with a population of 330,000, this marks the second consecutive time Utrecht claims the bronze medal. According to the Index, the world's largest bike facility is currently under construction and will accommodate 12,500 bikes once complete. With space such a commodity in the Netherlands and so many people commuting via bike, parking has become a serious dilemma. This facility should go a long way to mending this problem.
2. Amsterdam, Netherlands9 of 11
The world's benchmark for commuter cycling, Amsterdam's sea of bikes is, in and of itself, a tourist attraction. The Index explains that it chose to relegate Amsterdam from atop its perch at number one due to its contentment with the status quo and lack of innovation. Regardless, the city's construction—with narrow, windy roadways, canals, and dense congestion—lends itself to being a cycling haven.
1. Copenhagen, Denmark10 of 11
Copenhagen nabs the number one spot. As the Index that proudly displays the city's name in its title stated, "You simply can't keep track of the constant flow of new bicycle urbanism stuff in Copenhagen." Perhaps the biggest reason Copenhagen can stake claim to the title of best city for cyclists is because a staggering 63 percent of residents utilize cycling as their main means of transportation. However, city construction, which has made inner city driving an absolute pain, may be largely to blame. So enjoy the top spot while you have it, Copenhagen.