Bicycles can be a great way for travelers to enjoy a city. Not only do you have easy access to many tourist spots, but they’re good for your personal health, financial health and the planet’s health. However, not all cities are bicycle friendly. The last thing you want is a stressful vacation pedaling around an urban tangle where roads and vehicles totally rule. Here are some great places to be on a bicycle.
There’s nothing like a local to help provide the lay of the land. Jurga Rubinovaite, founder of the Full Suitcase family travel blog, is based in Antwerp. And she’s also a major biking enthusiast. “Biking is a great way to explore a new destination or rediscover a place and get to know it deeper,” she said. “So I try to do it whenever I get the chance.” Antwerp ranks No. 3 on the latest Global Bicycle Cities Index, and it’s also high in Rubinovaite’s estimation “It offers a great mix of historic landmarks, modern architecture, world-class museums, and some of the best shopping and dining in Europe,” she said. “In addition, it’s a relatively flat and bike-friendly city, which is surrounded by lots of greenery, just a stone’s throw from the historic old town.”
It’s a capital idea to see this nation’s lovely capital by bike. There are routes to fit any fitness level or sightseeing interest. The City of Bern route takes you through neighborhoods such as Kirchenfeld (the museum district). It’s 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) with about a 200-meter (656-foot) change in elevation along the route. The UNESCO Tour route starts in Bern’s Old Town and leads to the Rose Garden, a popular selfie spot with a breathtaking view. It also goes by the Bern Cathedral and the city’s mountain, the Gurten, before heading out to more rural settings. It’s 60 kilometers (37 miles) with designated “easy” riding conditions.
The Danes are known for taking their bicycling culture seriously, and the stats back that up. Roughly 70% own a bike, according to the Danish Centre of Cycling Knowledge, and about 45% of commutes in the Copenhagen area are by bike. The first bike lane in Denmark was set up in 1892 in Copenhagen. Today, the capital has 385 kilometers (239 miles) of bike lanes, according to VisitDenmark.com. Bicyclists and drivers also safely share the same roadway in many places. Thanks to Danish design innovations such as narrowed streets and textured surfaces, cars drive slower.
Melbourne’s scenic beauty, culture, sports and casual eateries are that much more fun when you arrive by bike. The city has more than 135 kilometers (84 miles) of on- and off-road routes and is fast-tracking more. One riding highlight is the Capital City Trail. Cyclists share its 29 kilometers (18 miles) with pedestrians. It circles the inner city and goes through some eastern and northern suburbs. Waterways and bike paths just seem to go together, and so it is in Melbourne.
This bilingual city, set on an island in the St. Lawrence River has embraced bicycles in a big way. Since the 1980s, Montreal has invested in bike infrastructure with hundreds of kilometers of paths and lanes, according to urban bicycle advocacy group Copenhagenize. Now, the city plans to expand, according to the CBC, by adding about 200 kilometers (125 miles) of protected, dedicated bike lanes over the next five years. Visitors can already bike between six of Montreal’s favorite parks: The famous Mount Royal as well as Parc Frédéric-Back, Parc Jarry, Parc Jean-Drapeau, Parc Maisonneuve and Île-de-la-Visitation in the Prairies River.
San Francisco, California
Many of the top bicycling cities are in Europe, but the United States does have some offerings, including tourist favorite San Francisco. The city had almost 464 miles (747 kilometers) in its bikeway network as of May 2022. And 121 miles (195 kilometers) were protected. CNN Travel emailed Nesrine Majzoub, director of marketing and communications for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, for some bike-riding tips in the notoriously hilly city. “Thankfully, our bike paths choose the safest path with the least amount of hills. So, it’s really valuable to look at the ‘biking’ route in your GPS and map options, because those paths will allow you to avoid the hills as much as possible,” said Majzoub.
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