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The World’s Top Five Bicycle-Friendly Cities

Amsterdam is one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities Amsterdam is one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities Aija Lehtonen / Shutterstock.com

With constantly fluctuating gas prices and concerns over global warming and pollution, the ability to get around using alternative transportation is something that is important to a lot of us. Bicycling is one of the best ways to cut energy use and pollution while also getting exercise. Though little has changed about the bicycle since the modern chain-driven version was developed in 1885, bicycle use has grown in popularity worldwide, and bicycles are now the primary form of transportation across the planet. That said, only a few cities really do bike-riding right, and go out of their way to make their roads bicycle-friendly. Whether you are looking for a new hometown or just looking for an eco-friendly vacation spot, here are five bicycle-friendly cities that'll really get your gears turning.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

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There are a variety of reasons to visit the hydroponics-loving city of Amsterdam, and one of the main attractions is the ability to visit all of the city’s sights via bicycle. Dubbed by many the "Bike Capital of the World," Amsterdam boasts a series of well-maintained and safe bike paths for the 40 percent of citizens who commute by bike each day. In a population of 760,000 people, that's a lot of two-wheeled traffic. They are also home to the Amsterdam Bike Ramp, a safe place maintained by the city for people to lock up their bikes when they need to commute via train.

Portland, Oregon

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If Amsterdam is the "Bike Capital of the World," then surely Portland must be the "Bike Capital of the USA." Another large city, Portland has worked hard to create a series of bike paths that connect the entire community, and they have recently implemented a program to give commuter-bicycles to low-income people who cannot afford cars. As a result, nearly 10 percent of their population rides a bike regularly. This may sound like a small number, but it’s nearly unheard of in North America. Portland already has miles of paved and unpaved bike paths and plans to keep adding to the Portland Bicycle Network.

Copenhagen, Denmark

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Recently named one of Forbes Magazine's “Ten Places to Live in Europe,” Copenhagen is also an extremely bike-centered city. Almost all citizens own bicycles and by recent estimates somewhere around 32 percent of the population bicycles daily. There are places throughout the city where bikes can be rented with a small deposit, whereas many neighborhoods don't even allow car traffic and parking a car is commonly expensive. Add to that a series of extensive bike paths that are often completely separate from the vehicle roads and you have the perfect European bike city.

Boulder, Colorado

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Boulder is a beautiful mountain city that is trying very hard to encourage its citizens to bicycle more, and seems to be pretty successful thus far. They have implemented an effective program to encourage K-12 students to ride bikes to school, causing one school to report that 75 percent of kids were biking daily rather than riding the bus or getting rides from parents. In addition to the public school project, the city of Boulder spends about 15 percent of their transportation budget on bicycle paths and other programs to promote bike use.

Davis, California

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Though not as large as the other cities on this list, Davis makes up for its size with extreme bike-riding enthusiasm. A town with only 65,000 year-round residents (but also home to a large university,) Davis boasts over 100 miles of bike paths over its incredibly flat terrain. Davis was one of the first US cities to include bike paths into their transportation planning as the city was built, and it shows - most streets have wide bike lanes and even many of the traffic signals have lights specifically for bicyclists. For years, Davis has been a city with more bicycles than cars, and in many spots there are bike paths with no roads. The University of California, Davis only allows official vehicles on much of the campus, but bikes can go anywhere. Just make sure that you follow the laws because Davis also has a fleet of bicycle cops that will not hesitate to cite an underage kid without a helmet (most K-12 students bike to school) or anyone biking after sunset without a headlight. Safety first!

There are a number of other bicycle-friendly cities worldwide like Barcelona, Spain and Trondheim, Norway, and even iconic San Francisco, so make sure you look into bike-friendly travel the next time you are planning a trip. Bicycles are an inexpensive and healthy way to see many cities, and even allow you to get to places you may miss when behind-the-wheel of a clunky motor vehicle.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 15:18

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