The bicycle makes sense in cities. With rising urbanization, our cities need modern mobility solutions, and moving around on two wheels proves time and again that it can offer results.
Investment in bicycle infrastructure is a modern and intelligent move. Plenty of research shows the social, economic, environmental, and health benefits of urban cycling. Studies from Denmark tell us that for every kilometer cycled, society enjoys a net profit of 23 cents, whereas for every kilometer driven by car we suffer a net loss of 16 cents.
Many cities get this. Many don’t. And many more are somewhere in between, wavering on how much to invest, where to invest it, and how, exactly, to make themselves welcoming to cycling and the benefits it brings.
The 2015 Index
With each edition, the Copenhagenize Design Company’s Index of the most bike-friendly cities in the world evolves. In 2011 we ranked 80 global cities; in 2013 we ranked 150.
This year, we considered citieswith a regional population over 600,000 (with a few exceptions because of their political and regional importance, and to keep things interesting). We ranked 122 cities. The top 20 are presented here.
As with the two previous indexes, this year offers surprises. Copenhagen and Amsterdam continue to dominate, but new cities storm into the top 20 at the expense of others.
Buenos Aires stomps the competition and nails the South American continent, at the expense of Rio de Janeiro, which seems to have lost interest. Europe continues to have a strong presence, though Germany is slacking—Berlin falls, Munich slips off the list entirely, and Hamburg is hanging on by a thread.
Asia is relaxing—not in a good way—with Tokyo and Nagoya exiting the list. Montreal clings desperately to 20th and now has North American competition in the form of Minneapolis, which makes its debut on the index. We can see other American cities fighting their way north.
You can read about our full methodology here, but the key to a top spot is clear. You need serious advocacy, bike facilities, social acceptance, and a general perception that cycling is safe. You get extra points for a higher modal percentage—the share of residents who get around by bike as opposed to car or public transit—and for a 50-50 gender split among cyclists.
Of course, infrastructure is key. In Denmark and the Netherlands, a set of rules has evolved over a century. Tried and tested and proven to work, this established best practice is the model for cities everywhere. It includes making protected, one-way bike lanes that aren’t shared by cars, buses, or pedestrians. It means designing streets to limit the number and speed of cars in city centers, making public spaces safe and welcoming for everyone, not just drivers.
So we are excited and proud to release the Copenhagenize Index 2015—our comprehensive inventory and ranking of the world’s 20 most bicycle-friendly cities.
2013 Ranking: 2
The Lowdown: After finishing second in the last two Copenhagen Index rankings, Copenhagen edges out Amsterdam for 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 regard to a uniform network of urban design for bicycles, Copenhagen is unrivaled in the world. The clear leadership we missed in the 2013 ranking is once again in place with the election of Morten Kabell as head of transportation.
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 leaped from 36 percent to 45 percent between 2012 and 2014. We’ve never seen that kind of jump 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 over the canal opened in December 2014. The famous Cykelslangen (“bike snake”) elevated bike ramp has captured the citizens’ imagination and provided an important mobility link across the harbor. Four new bicycle bridges are on the way. Cross-town routes are being upgraded.
You simply can’t keep track of the new bicycle urbanism stuff in Copenhagen. High points in modal share increase and a good harvest of bonus points for that, as well as infrastructure and political will pushed Copenhagen into first place. Innovation. Investment. Improvement.
Getting Better: Kill off the failed bike-share program; it’s getting embarrassing. Put the money into something that actually works. Keep pushing for improvements in infrastructure and be bolder to battle the constant helmet promotion from safety nannies.
You know more space is the key to continued growth, so now is the time to be bolder than ever. Build wider cycle tracks and bicycle boulevards. People in cars who don’t even live in the municipality continue to enjoy free passage down your streets. It’s time to stem the tide. Learn from the lesson of the Greatest Urban Experiment and maintain the current rise in cycling levels after the Metro is finished.
2013 Ranking: 1
The Lowdown: Amsterdam, like most Dutch cities, suffers from its 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 it has done, as opposed to what it is doing and planning.
Amsterdam must act 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.
It is time to tidy up. A more uniform network of bike infrastructure based on the best-practice strategies you know but fail to implement is the next long-term step. The same challenges face Amsterdam and Copenhagen regarding increasing cycling levels and creating the modern bicycle city. Copenhagen doesn’t have the key just yet, but at least it is investing and thinking long and hard about it. Amsterdam twiddles its thumbs and doesn’t really know where to go. Political will is required to move the city into the next level. If the city gets serious about proposals like these, it will be back on track.
Getting Better: The main fix is the actual desire for improvement. That would require politicians understanding better the importance of making conditions better for cyclists in the city and the economic value of doing so. The city should look carefully at the reasons Copenhagen overtook it this year. Innovation and investment.
Thinking about how to take cycling to the next level is Copenhagens trademark, but there is no reason Amsterdam shouldnt be able to compete. Copenhagens investment in many new bridges over the harbor should be direct inspiration for Amsterdam to do the same. Fixing the ragtag spiders web of curious infrastructure styles into something that is more intuitive is also a must.
2013 Ranking: 3
The Lowdown: The Dutch city remains in a steady third place and continues to be a world leader among smaller urban areas. The status quo is firmly in place, and while it is at an amazing level, the city seems content with that. Its development plan, 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 and brilliant. When the city figures out how to get rid of the long stretches of brain-rattling cobblestones and to make a more intuitive and uniform infrastructure network, it will certainly step out of Amsterdam’s shadow.
Getting Better: Speaking with city planners, the same thing is said in Utrecht as in many Dutch cities. Bikes—and in particular bike parking—are a “problem”. When Utrecht realizes that it is a “problem” that other cities are begging for and sees it as an opportunity, the city has the potential to redefine an urban landscape where bicycles are king. The step toward a legendary bike parking facility shows the city is keen to be a leader, but there is more to it than parking spots.
2013 Ranking: New
The Lowdown: Despite being new to the Copenhagenize Index this year, Strasbourg has long been the premier cycling city in France. We have literally heard planners in other cities grumble that Strasbourg is “half-German,” as though that were an excuse for its high cycling levels.
What Strasbourg has achieved is the result of a generation of planners who insisted on cycling as transport. Cycling in Strasbourg is a pleasant affair and, as it should be, the quickest way from A to B. There are 333 miles of cycle routes in the city and surrounding metro area, and the city has a unique bike-share system: Vlhop lets you get a 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 customized with kids’ seats and baskets. The city enjoys 15 percent modal share in the city center and 8 percent in the metro area. 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 can 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 its laurels for a number of years. Now is the time to go further.
Getting Better: The foundation for Strasbourg’s success is the fact that it has borrowed freely from German cities in the region. The Germans are, however, not exactly the best role model when it comes to bicycle infrastructure. If Strasbourg wants to move to the next level, it’s time to look long and hard at the Netherlands and Denmark.
The network, a strange combination of infrastructure styles, only makes sense if you live there. When uniformity is brought to the equation and serious decisions are made, there will be no reason why Strasbourg shouldn’t be able to fly through the 30 percent modal share barrier.
2013 Ranking: 8
The Lowdown: 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 seeing what else the city can produce that is functional and iconic.
Eindhoven’s upward swing in this version of the index is due to the lack of innovation by the cities above it, 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.
Getting Better: We said it in 2013, and we’ll say it again: If the city could pull the Floating Roundabout out of its hat, there should be no limit to what else it can achieve.
2013 Ranking: 9
The Lowdown: Sweden’s third-largest city has been wise to look west to Copenhagen for inspiration, as opposed to north to Gothenburg and Stockholm. The main city in Sweden’s most bicycle-friendly region—Skne—Malm has been insistent on reestablishing the bicycle on the urban landscape.
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. Its “No Ridiculous Car Trips” behavioral campaign is still a benchmark for communication.
The city remains balanced on helmet promotion, in contrast to Stockholm and Gothenburg, which serves to encourage cycling. Despite a rise in the ranking, we have heard of a waning interest from politicians to keep moving forward. 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.
Getting Better: Still, Malm insists, in some places, on substandard infrastructure solutions that do not encourage the development of a coherent network and, by extension, an increase in cycling levels. More investment will ensure Malm’s leadership role in Sweden, as well as among cities of a similar size in the rest of Europe.
Not capitalizing on that would be silly. When a city has been so visionary, it is a harder fall when the wheels stop rolling.
2013 Ranking: 6
The Lowdown: Nantes has embarked on an impressive journey. It rocketed onto the index in 2013 thanks to clear political will and investment in infrastructure and facilities. It’s maintaining that, although it drops one place on the 2015 index.
We’re impressed by the efforts from the city and the diversity of projects it has 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 put in 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 its money where its mouth is. Where 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. It understands not just the necessity of modernizing its transport for rising urbanization but also the branding value of being a city that is changing fast for the future. It’s chasing Strasbourg and competing with Bordeaux for becoming France’s best city for cycling. Momentum provides a tailwind.
Getting Better: Nantes will not increase its modal share further without a commitment to best practice infrastructure. It gets so many things right apart from this. French planners and traffic engineers are simply not equipped to plan for cycling and, as in many large countries, they are reluctant to seek inspiration across borders.
Cycling in Nantes is confusing and not very intuitive, due to the variety of infrastructure designs. When the city decides to seek uniformity, it will advance further down the bicycle urbanism superhighway.
A clear hierarchy between traffic users is needed city-wide, and bidirectional cycle tracks only serve to make things confusing for all citizens. The city needs to make the bicycle the fastest transport form from A to B—it’s not quite there yet—and only then will it harvest the fruit.
2013 Ranking: 8
The Lowdown: 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 it has achieved in the past few years is still remarkable. A firm investment in infrastructure and facilities has given Bordeaux a brilliant bicycle urbanism boost.
Bordeaux continues to take bicycle transport seriously. Its investment in several tram lines has helped boost cycling by providing a traffic calming effect. The VCub bike-share system rolls on, and Bordeaux is still focused on marketing cycling to the mainstream as opposed to the subcultures through effective advocacy. A great gender split rounds off a respectable score.
Getting Better: The rapid success of Bordeaux as a cycling city has waned slightly. A great baseline has been established, but it seems the focus on taking it further is lacking.
Connecting up the network with better infrastructure and continuing to calm traffic are obvious steps for City Hall to consider. With other French cities getting their game face on, Bordeaux has every reason to take a leadership role.
2013 Ranking: 7
The Lowdown: The best large city in Belgium for cycling, Antwerp has a firm grip on the Top 20 index, even though it slips two places 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.
But the positive politics that came out of City Hall up until the last index in 2013 have dried up with the last election. There is actually talk from current politicians about how to get more cars into the city center. Seriously. In 2015.
Getting Better: Like everywhere else, Antwerp has urbanization challenges. That increasing cars in the city is even being discussed is as sad as it is comical. There is no reason the city couldn’t reach cycling levels that would rival Amsterdam and Copenhagen. All the pieces of the puzzle are in place. It wouldn’t require much imagination to make it happen.
2013 Ranking: 4
The Lowdown: For a few years, Seville was the poster child of the cycling world, 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 percent modal share for bikes to 7 percent in just a few years. It was made possible by bold political will, investment in a broad network of bicycle infrastructure, and a comprehensive bike-share system.
The foundation that was laid is still in place, but Seville slips to a respectable 10th place from a lofty fourth. The status quo that affects all manner of cities seems to have slowed the development pace. Shooting for 15 percent or more shouldn’t be a problem, and should be a priority.
Seville is still interesting, but by resting on its laurels it will lose momentum, and the world will seek out inspiration elsewhere. One positive note is that the rest of Andalusia is looking to copy Seville’s success and hopes to roll out an impressive regional network of cycling infrastructure. That doesn’t help Seville in this ranking though.
Getting Better: We are aware that local politics factor into the equation in Seville, like anywhere else. Cycling for transport should be a cross-party goal. Seville needs to make a clear plan for how it can take its hard work and push it forward.
It needs to find the momentum again, and that comes from political will and investment. Seville is in a position that cities around the world are begging to be in. Keep building, developing, and investing. Don’t be that city that did something great once. Be the city that keeps doing something great.
2013 Ranking: 17
The Lowdown: Barcelona’s rise in this ranking shows that firm, consistent commitment pays off. There were no bicycles left in Barcelona just eight or so years ago, and now they have a new foothold.
The city has employed a mixture of traffic-calming measures and infrastructure to make it great to choose a bicycle for transport. It is one of the cities in the world with the largest swathe of 30 km/h zones, and while the bicycle infrastructure network is far from complete, it is usable and frequented.
The city’s bike-share program is one of the best on the planet as measured by usage rates, and it has helped boost cycling levels across the board. There is a high standard of intermodality in the city and surrounding metro area. The city’s “Superblocks” initiative may not be focused on bicycles, but it will certainly do wonders for cycling in the neighborhoods.
Barcelona is interesting to larger cities around the world who don’t find inspiration in smaller urban centers. It’s a big city, and when big cities do things they get noticed, which is brilliant for showing the world what is possible.
Getting Better: Barcelona’s development has slowed, but it certainly hasn’t stalled. There is continued focus on development of bicycle infrastructure and facilities.
What the city desperately needs is a plan to connect up the many bits and pieces of infrastructure and to truly make the bicycle the fastest way from A to B. The city would be well served by adopting best practice infrastructure instead of many half-hearted solutions. Traffic calming has positively affected cars, but the problem of scooters remains. Infrastructure is key.
2013 Ranking: 16
The Lowdown: Berlin as a bicycle city is like Berlin as an everything else city. It’s a bit rough around the edges, it could be much better, but people get on with it.
The cycling population is mainstream, with few visible subcultures and a healthy gender split. A high city-wide modal share is punctuated with neighborhoods that exceed 20 percent. Cargo bikes abound in the city, a great indicator of growth. Berlin continues to toe the line with its place in the index.
Getting Better: There is still an insistence in Berlin on investing in old-fashioned car infrastructure, particularly outside the city. For a fraction of the price, the city could upgrade its bicycle infrastructure and create much needed uniformity in its network.
Traffic calming is on the agenda, and Berlin should look to Paris and Barcelona for inspiration on this front. And more bike racks, please.
2013 Ranking: New
The Lowdown: Making its first appearance on the index, the Slovenian capital rolls smoothly and confidently into the Top 20. Ljubljana’s journey started in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when 25 miles of Copenhagen-style cycle tracks were built across the city. It maintained a respectable level of cycling for decades. Chosen as the European Green Capital in 2016, it’s once again focusing on increasing cycling levels to make itself a more livable city.
New developments have infrastructure planned in from the beginning. The city’s bike-share program helps make the bicycle a staple transport form for the citizens. We see serious political movement in Ljubljana to establish itself as one of the world’s great bicycle cities. The current 12 percent modal share is impressive, and with 83 miles of bike lanes and 45 miles of cycle tracks, Ljubljana is well positioned for further growth.
Getting Better: More than most cities in the world, Ljubljana has the experience of increasing cycling rapidly with well-designed infrastructure. That 1970s lesson should form the foundation of the city’s work today—and for the next 100 years.
All the talk of becoming a green capital is great, but the bicycle will—as it always has—lead the way. Better infrastructure, better network. Think bicycle first.
14. Buenos Aires
2013 Ranking: New
The Lowdown: Meet the new poster child for bicycle urbanism. Buenos Aires is the only city in this year’s index to harvest maximum bonus points, and it flies into the Top 20 on a steady tailwind.
In a shockingly short amount of time, the Argentine capital has succeeded in modernizing itself to include bicycles as transport. In the past three years, over 87 miles of bicycle infrastructure has been implemented—much of it protected—along with a bike-share program.
Buenos Aires proves the success of Seville was not a one-off. It has showed that with the right political will and investment, a large city can transform itself for the new millennium. It’s not all about the bike. Buenos Aires is focusing on the big picture, becoming a more livable city in general. Bus rapid transit lines, traffic-calmed streets, all good for city life and all good for putting the bike back on the landscape. At the moment, Buenos Aires is the city to watch.
Getting Better: Let’s be clear. Buenos Aires is very much a work in progress. Many of the protected bike lanes are narrow, bidirectional stretches along the curb, not the best part of the asphalt. Like in many emerging bicycle cultures, photos of obstacles in the bike lanes abound on the internet.
The seeds have been planted, the garden is growing, but now the city must cultivate it. The bicycle is competitive as a transport form but to go from here, the city needs to invest in high-quality infrastructure and best-practice solutions. More space for bicycle infrastructure, better facilities, and a better connected network are the next steps.
2013 Ranking: 10
The Lowdown: Dublin has been a darling on the Copenhagenize Index since 2011, and the city has been inspirational for the rest of the world in its efforts to increase cycling levels. Once the third great cycling city in Europe after Amsterdam and Copenhagen, Dublin has the historical background for bringing the bicycles back.
Dublin seems to be suffering from the same apathy as other cities that have made impressive progress, sliding a few places down the index. What Dublin has achieved over the past few years is fantastic. The perfect cocktail of politicians who get it, investment in infrastructure and facilities, traffic-calming measures, and an epic bike-share system accelerated the city’s journey to urban modernization. You can’t take that away from Dublin, but you could wish for another period of concerted effort.
Getting Better: The National Transport Authority has been putting its back into it, but the City of Dublin hasn’t been lifting its share. Building upon its successes is of paramount importance. Choosing substandard infrastructure along the quays is not exactly the way to go. The bike-share program rocks, but now a comprehensive network and bicycle strategy should be developed and followed to the letter.
2013 Ranking: New
The Lowdown: Vienna featured in the Top 20 in 2011 and bounced out in 2013. The Austrian capital is back with a vengeance this time round.
Vienna has been slowly but steadily working towards making the city better for cyclists. Outside the traffic-calmed center, there are cycle tracks and facilities that put many other cities around the world to shame. The competition is tougher in Europe.
Vienna means well and acts upon that, but further development could easily be accelerated, especially given the positive attitude at City Hall. With that said, the city is one of the best on the planet to market urban cycling for the mainstream and to host events that appeal to regular citizens as opposed to subcultures.
Other points worth mentioning: The cargo bike armada is growing in numbers each year, the city is experimenting boldly with traffic-calmed streets, and there is a broad cultural acceptance.
Getting Better: Yes, we know the joke: When the world is ending, go to Vienna. Everything happens 50 years later there. We get it. But do we seriously have to wait 50 years for you to expand and upgrade your bike-share system? Or force your engineers to look up best practices for bicycle infrastructure? It can move quicker than that. You have the foundation; build on it.
2013 Ranking: 20
The Lowdown: For all the talk of cities like Seville and Dublin, the transformation of Paris is an exciting one. Not least because cities like London and New York take notice when their equals do things differently. Former Mayor Bertrand Delano led the charge for change between 2002-14, until he stepped down, highlighting the importance of political vision and will.
Few would have believed that Paris could have pulled it off, but it’s doing just that. The Vlib’ bike-share system firmly placed the bicycle back in the city and was embraced by the citizens. Traffic calming like 30 km/h zones and removing last-century car infrastructure helped continue the charge.
Paris lacks knowledge about designing infrastructure for cyclists, and its engineers and planners often choose substandard solutions that don’t make much sense. Nevertheless, the city is on the cusp of becoming a great cycling metropolis. Its modal share inside the ring road is 8 percent when measured by people arriving at work and school.
Cargo bikes are gaining in popularity, including logistics solutions for small-goods delivery. The city is keen to experiment—something that Copenhagen has benefited greatly from. The current mayor, Anne Hildalgo, has been talking the talk. She boldly declared that Paris will be the best bicycle city in the world by 2020. That won’t happen. Not by a long shot. But many aspects of Paris’ achievements are inspirational for other cities, and a Top 10 finish is within reach.
Getting Better: Paris doesn’t understand bicycle infrastructure well enough to make it the world’s best city for cycling. That point alone is its greatest weakness. There is no uniformity to its fledgling network.
A huge redesign of the intersection next to Montparnasse Tower, with wider sidewalks for pedestrians, completely ignored the needs of the modern urban cyclist. The city needs better intermodality, parking facilities, and links with the suburbs. If they want to be the best, they must think bicycle-first. It’s as simple as that.
2013 Ranking: New
The Lowdown: Minneapolis is the first American city to feature on the index since the number of cities we rank increased in 2013. Minnesota’s largest metropolis has the lowest baseline score of all the cities in the Top 20, but it makes up for that with bonus points in a number of categories.
The city boasts 120 miles of what it calls “on-street bikeways” and 90 miles of off-street lanes. The latter is less interesting for urban cycling, but Minneapolis is quickly becoming the go-to city in America for building infrastructure. An impressive (for America) modal share helped push it onto the index, and we like the political will coming out of City Hall.
A respectable bike-share system is helping cement the bicycle in the transportation foundation of the city. Seeds have been planted and a garden is growing. American cities—often content with baby steps—are in desperate need of leadership, and Minneapolis has emerged as a contender.
Getting Better: We know Minneapolis is proud of its winter, and we love that a snowy American city is the one that makes the Top 20. Better infrastructure maintenance during the winter is key. Prioritize snow clearance on the bike infrastructure above all else.
What will help the city is to stop talking about the winter and to focus on getting a massive rise in ridership during the rest of the year. Minneapolis would do well to increase its commitment to protected infrastructure and to focus on making the continent’s best on-street network, and the first city NOT to feature sharrows. It’s hard to think out of the box in America regarding transport, but somebody has to do it. Why not Minneapolis?
2013 Ranking: 15
The Lowdown: In the 2013 index we expressed surprise at Hamburg’s inclusion in the Top 20, and, once again, we are surprised to see it maintain its place on the list. The city is no slouch on the global scale, but it is as though it’s reluctant to modernize its infrastructure.
We have actually heard a city planner say that he doesn’t want to have protected bike lanes. With a straight face. The city is seemingly content with its status quo of weird infrastructure that alternates between road and sidewalk without any logic, and that isn’t maintained in the winter.
The city received bonus points for traffic calming with its plans to make the center car-free in the coming years, which helped it stay on the list. As far as modal share goes, there are few cities outside Europe that can compete.
Getting Better: Fix your bizarre infrastructure, Hamburg. Keep cyclists safe with the best-practice solutions that are to be found just to the south in Amsterdam and to the north in Copenhagen. Your bold goals for a car-free city center are great—if you pull it off—but you need to construct a solid and sensible network of infrastructure for bicycles to lead there.
2013 Ranking: 13
The Lowdown: Montreal has long been the best North American spot for cycling, not least because it has had protected bike lanes since the late 1980s.
The city continues to impress, despite slipping in the rankings. A strong gender split—unusual for North America—and stretches of decent infrastructure with impressive numbers of cyclists using them each day keep Montreal’s baseline firm. A great bike-share system and consistent advocacy adds to the cocktail. Montreal is hanging on to its spot, but it won’t take much to slip further now that so many cities around the world have their game faces on.
Getting Better: The brilliant visions that have come out of the Plateau borough have failed to replicate across the city at large. Politicians need to force planners and especially engineers to improve and to plan a network that makes sense for the next 100 years.
Again, best practice is often ignored, which is regrettable. Better winter maintenance is a must, cycle tracks along main arteries should be a no-brainer (especially with the shocking state of the asphalt on the roads), and feel free to borrow traffic-calming inspiration from Paris and Barcelona.