Best City for Cyclists? You’ve Probably Never Been.

A historic but lesser-known European metropolis takes first place in a new study

(Photo: Bèrto 'd Sèra / Flickr Creative Commons)

While our hometown of New York City remains a hostile place for cyclists, there are cities out in the wider world that welcome bikers with open arms.

Hello, Utrecht!

The central Netherlands metropolis of just over a million people recently topped the Global Bicycle Cities Index, a ranking of cycling cities around the globe conducted by Coya.

That German digital insurance agency (which emphasizes coverage against home theft and bike theft) ranked small, medium and large cities based on a number of factors related to cycling, including percentage of riders, safety, bike-related crime, road infrastructure, average hours of sunshine, popularity of cycling-related events (e.g. No Car Day, Critical Mass) and days of extreme weather, among other factors.

You can find the methodology at the bottom of their page results, and you can filter the results by factor.

Some interesting findings:

  • The number-one overall cycling city, by a very wide margin, is Utrecht in the Netherlands. However, if you divide by city size, the best medium-sized biking city is Copenhagen (4th overall) and the best large cycling metropolis is Hangzhou, China (7th overall). “The Netherlands has the best-developed cycle path network in the world,” as a translated blog posting on the Coya site notes. “According to current figures … about 27 percent of the work distances [in the Netherlands] are covered by bike.”
  • In the U.S., the best cycling city is San Francisco, which ranks just 39th overall. It does exceptionally well, scoring-wise, in factors such as weather, infrastructure and hosting bike-related events.
  • Lagos, Nigeria is the lowest ranked city by a wide margin, scoring just 11.81 on the hundred-point scale.
  • While ranking only 37th, Vancouver has won kudos recently for almost doubling the amount of biking commuters in the last five years and creating bike lanes that are “AAA-rated,” or safe for any rider from the age of 8 to 80.
  • New York was 67th overall and, no surprise, abysmal in the rankings (86th) when it came to biking fatalities.

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