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02 Nov 2018

Bike Use Around the World

When it comes to cycling culture and infrastructure, some countries have a much better approach than others. While there are more than one billion bicycles in the world, the distribution curve is far from equal. Some cities embrace bikes with open arms, and others seem reticent to set up bike-friendly infrastructure. If adopted, bike use is more than just a way to get around your favourite city, it also has the ability to improve your health and reduce your carbon footprint. Let's take a look at the most bicycle friendly destinations on Earth and how they differ from the struggling bike culture in Australia and New Zealand.

People all over the world are rediscovering the wonders of getting around on two wheels. Changes in bike culture continue to come from multiple directions, with some people riding for the health benefits, some to save money, and others wanting to embrace a more sustainable transportation solution. Bike rental services exist in most major western cities, with bike rental also popular in China and other busy Asian centres. Clogged roads and problematic public transportation networks have helped bikes to thrive in the developing world, as has the birth of the sharing economy.

According to the China Internet Network Information Centre, bike-sharing services have attracted more than 100 million users in China alone over the past year. The two largest services in Beijing are valued at more than US$1 billion, with so many bikes on the streets that the city has imposed a moratorium on bicycle-renting services. This situation is repeated across Asia and South America, with people using bikes as an affordable transportation solution despite chaotic city streets and a lack of critical infrastructure.

Despite more bikes being on the roads than ever before, not all town planners and government departments have decided to join the party. The Copenhagenize Bicycle Friendly Cities Index 2017 recently attempted to rank cities in terms of "efforts towards re-establishing the bicycle as a feasible, accepted and practical form of transport." 14 different parameters were used to measure these efforts, including things like bicycle culture, facilities, advocacy, perception of safety, and social acceptance.

As you might expect, the most bike friendly cities in the world are located in Northern Europe, with Copenhagen in Denmark coming out on top. While the competition between Copenhagen and Amsterdam is fierce, the Danish capital continues to invest heavily in bicycle infrastructure. Utrecht in the Netherlands actually managed to slip past Amsterdam for second place, with the world's most famous biking city sliding down to third. Bicycle culture is incredibly popular throughout the Netherlands, with up to 70 percent of all journeys made by bike in Amsterdam and The Hague.

Other cities that ranked well in the Index were Strasbourg, France in fourth place, and Malmö, Sweden in fifth place. Tokyo, Japan was the only non-European city to make the top ten, coming in at ninth place. Despite a strong car culture in the United States, cities such as Portland and New York have emerging bike communities and growing infrastructure. Bicycle culture in Australia and New Zealand continues to struggle, despite recent efforts by local governments to introduce bike renting schemes. There are many reasons why this is the case, including the sprawling nature of our cities, the hot weather conditions, and the strict helmet laws.


Image source: Alex Yuzhakov/Shutterstock