A bike gets you around fast enough to see all the sights, yet slowly enough to spot the city’s secrets. It also lets you swiftly slip into living like a local, even if it’s just for the weekend. With bike rental booming, bike-sharing apps gaining momentum and transport providers now giving cheaper and easier options for carrying bikes as luggage, cycling city breaks are ever more appealing.
Here’s a selection of cycle-friendly cities for travellers who love a good spin.
A few years ago, the number of bikes in Copenhagen officially exceeded the number of cars. This isn’t surprising when you take a look at the city’s infrastructure; bike lanes separated from car traffic, traffic lights timed according to the average cycling speed and now a network of Cycle Superhighways specially designed for commuters. Try it out for yourself by navigating the city by bike, whether you’re there to ride one of the world’s oldest roller coasters at Tivoli Gardens, encounter the local counter culture in Christiania or simply sip a beer or a coffee by the waterfront in Nyhavn. If you still have energy for a final sprint, head down to the gym at the eco-conscious Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
In Amsterdam even the prime minister gets around by bicycle, and the Dutch are fiercely proud of their bike culture. You, too, can get the true Dutch experience by renting an omafiets (Dutch-style bike) that will whizz you around Amsterdam. Many hotels have rental bikes available – a particularly green one is the Conscious Hotel. Each sustainable feature of the hotel is explained on a little tag or sign, and it’s located right next to the lush Vondelpark..
Bordeaux has had the official ‘vélotouristique’ (bicycle tourism) label since 2011. The very reasonably-priced ‘V3’ bike share scheme means you can pick up and drop off bicycles in 174 locations around the city. There are also several tourism cycle routes for you to follow; the whole city centre is a UNESCO Heritage Site, and if you head out of town you can visit the region’s famous vineyards. Many visitors will have planned an afternoon training their taste buds at the Cité du Vin, but don’t forget to stop by La Toque Cuivrée, known for the best ‘cannelés de Bordeaux’ – the city’s famous pastry. Rest your legs over a cocktail before bed at Mama Shelter, just around the corner.
Often said to be the most bike-friendly city in the USA, Portland’s cycling citizens and their bikes come in every style. Waiting at the lights you’re just as likely to find yourself next to a home-welded tall bike as a full carbon speed machine or a sticker-covered fixed gear. A good place to call base is the Royal Sonesta Portland Downtown; not only is it ideally situated downtown but they’ll also lend you bikes to get around for free. From there, Portland is your oyster with its craft beer breweries, coffee roasteries and farmers’ markets. The city lives up to its bike-friendly reputation with over 500km of bike paths including Tilikum Crossing, the pedestrian and cycle bridge that crosses the Willamette River. If you’re travelling with your wheels, Portland’s airport even has a dedicated bike assembly station and cycle lanes to get there.
Kyoto is remarkably easy to navigate by bike since its streets are laid out in a grid pattern going North-South and East-West, modelled on the ancient Chinese capital, Chang’an. Although there aren’t many bike-only lanes, the city has a reputation for being bikeable. Certain 'pedestrian areas' can be used if the roads are busy but only ones with a sign stating that this is indeed allowed (and if you are, remember to weave your way through pedestrians carefully and respectfully). Most attractions have a small bicycle parking lot next to them, but if you’re in the city centre you can use the big ones like at Kyoto Station or the WINGS Downtown parking lot. For the full local experience, stay at Yadoya Kikokuso; a traditional, family-run ryokan in the centre of Kyoto. From there, hop on your bike for a tour of the temples and shrines, then refuel with delicious Kyoto specialities at Nishiki Market.