Dublin and London make Copenhagenize list of Top 20 Most Bicycle-Friendly Cities

Dublin's "visionary politicians" praised, speed-obsessed Londoners should "stop whining"

by Simon_MacMichael   September 19, 2011  

London:cyclist in traffic (copyright Simon MacMichael).jpg

The capitals of the UK and the Republic of Ireland, London and Dublin, are two of the more surprising inclusions in a list of the Top 20 Most Bicycle-Friendly Cities, published today by urban planning consultancy, Copenhagenize. Amsterdam tops the Index, with Copenhagen in second place and Barcelona perhaps raising eyebrows by clinching third place.

The idea behind producing an Index of the cities that are best for cycling arose from a discussion at the consultancy, which advocates the bicycle as the solution to modern, urban transport issues, earlier this year.

That led to information and stats being collected and the index being developed, rating cities on a number of measures for their bike-friendliness. Initially, Copehagenize planned to use the index internally, but soon realised it would be of interest to a wider audience.

Cities were rated between 0 and 4 on a range of measures in 13 categories, with a maximum of 12 bonus points also on offer for “particularly impressive
efforts or results” – interestingly, Dublin, placed ninth, was the only city to take all the bonus points on offer, while Amsterdam, on 54 points out of a maximum possible score of 64, topped the table.

After rating more than 80 cities worldwide, the index of the Top 20 has now been published, focusing on major cities – Copenhagenize says that the smallest to make the list is Portland, Oregon, but the West Coast city actually has an estimated population of just below 600,000, which actually makes it larger than Dublin by that measure.

Population issues aside, Portland made the list, says Copenhagenize, partly because they were “curious to see how the USA’s top cycling city would fare,” plus “we would never hear the end of it from Portlanders if they weren’t included.”

Each city on the list has a page dedicated to it with reasons behind how it achieved its ranking, together with suggestions from Copenhagenize of how it can improve further.

Dublin’s inclusion is due to “a wildly successful bike share programme, visionary politicians who implemented bike lanes and 30 km/h zones, and a citizenry who have merely shrugged and gotten on with it,” says Copenhagenize.

The consultancy warns, however, that there needs to be “further intense infrastructure implementation to return Dublin to the heady days of [the] last century,” adding, “The new cycle track along the canal is brilliant, but now Dublin needs to find the funds for more.”

In joint 15th place, London’s status, meanwhile, reflects not only growth in cycling in the city, but also the fact that “political efforts – like them or not – have had their desired impact,” including the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme.

“A strong cycling community is, in some ways, a benefit to returning the bicycle to the British capital,” adds the consultancy, which says, “London has a diverse range of bicycle cultures, with room for everyone to participate. There is also growing support in favour of lobbying for separated infrastructure.”

On that latter point, Copenhagenize cautions that Londoners should “Stop whining that the Danish and Dutch experiences can’t be transferred to London and start thinking more seriously about proper infrastructure so that you don’t end up being a whole lot of gearheads swarming around the odd Citizen Cyclist.”

Of course, there’s no reason why someone can’t be both a gearhead, riding competitively at evenings and weekends say, and an everyday, non Lycra clad bike rider using two wheels to get around town on a daily basis - we know that plenty of our users fall into both categories.

Having said that, if Copenhagenize wanted to provoke a discussion about how provision for cyclists in the city should be shaped going forward, we can’t think of a better way to start it than this:

“It's time for more focus on mainstream promotion of cycling and less attention paid to the rants of speed-obsessed sub-cultures. Now that you’ve designed (and spent a lot of money on) the beautiful ‘Pringle’ velodrome, how about spending a bit on cycle lanes to get there. And everywhere else.”

Justified comment or wide of the mark? Let us know your thoughts on Copehagenize’s view of London, and on the Index in general, in the comments below.

The Top 20 Most Bicycle-Friendly Cities Index for 2011

1  Amsterdam
2  Copenhagen
3  Barcelona
4  Tokyo
5  Berlin
6  Munich
7  Paris
8  Montréal
9  Dublin
10 Budapest
11 Portland
12 Guadalajara
13 Hamburg
14 Stockholm
15 Helsinki
=  London
17 San Francisco
18 Rio de Janeiro
=  Vienna
20 New York City 

 

 

21 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Montreal and Portland I can understand but the rest? San Fran is probably safe to cycle in but those hills!!! Smile

posted by iamelectron [110 posts]
19th September 2011 - 17:51

3 Likes

Surprise

Really?

djcritchley's picture

posted by djcritchley [146 posts]
19th September 2011 - 17:51

4 Likes

When taxi drivers stop driving dangerously close to me, then I'll believe that London is a bike friendly city. Until then, a lot still needs to be done.

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
19th September 2011 - 17:55

6 Likes

On that latter point, Copenhagenize cautions that Londoners should “Stop whining that the Danish and Dutch experiences can’t be transferred to London and start thinking more seriously about proper infrastructure so that you don’t end up being a whole lot of gearheads swarming around the odd Citizen Cyclist.”

Given that whoever writes on Copenhagenise seems to have a bit of a problem with 'vehicular cycling'
http://www.copenhagenize.com/2010/07/vehicular-cyclists-secret-sect.html

and that infrastructure is the solution to everything
http://www.copenhagenize.com/2011/08/case-for-bicycle-infrastructure.html

- I'd treat anything written on there with a *huge* pinch of salt.

posted by JonD [196 posts]
19th September 2011 - 18:33

4 Likes

JonD wrote:

Given that whoever writes on Copenhagenise seems to have a bit of a problem with 'vehicular cycling'
http://www.copenhagenize.com/2010/07/vehicular-cyclists-secret-sect.html

- I'd treat anything written on there with a *huge* pinch of salt.

Well pointed out, JonD. I just read the VC bit. What a load of carp. It reads like a Daily Mail journo has infiltrated the organisation. Fortunately there are plenty of comments about the article on the website that are a little more realistic.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
19th September 2011 - 21:40

2 Likes

London is much improved in recent years and deserves credit for that but to rank it equal with Helsinki suggests that this list is nonsense.

The only reason I can think of for Helsinki not being higher is that they did away with their City Bike scheme.

And where the hell is Oslo on the list? Yes it's hilly in parts, but you can take bikes on the Metro: I've seen mountain bikers in full downhill rig using it as an uplift service.

posted by JonSP [55 posts]
20th September 2011 - 7:29

2 Likes

Why only one Dutch city? If this was an objective study, every Dutch city would be on the list.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1363 posts]
20th September 2011 - 7:36

3 Likes

the point on 'gearheads' needs addressing too I'd say. Cities like London are never going to be like Copenhagen because they are much, much bigger, and so are commuting distances. I got back in to cycling in the early 90s and my commute from a not particularly distant suburb to the edge of central London was an 18 mile round trip.

On average Brits commute the longest distances in Europe they are also work the longest hours - so for a lot of people riding fast or setting of much earlier are the only options when it comes to cycling to work and getting there on time.

If you are going to work up a sweat it makes sense to wear technical kit - for a start it dries out quickly for the ride home and is a lot less anti-social than sitting around all day in clothes that got a pre-work drenching in perspiration.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4152 posts]
20th September 2011 - 7:42

3 Likes

Well Summarised, Tony. The Brits have longer commutes and need to cover the distance in a reasonable time. Even on a commute from east London to the City I think wearing some cycling kit makes a big differenc. Especially proper shorts.

"I were right about that saddle."

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
20th September 2011 - 8:38

4 Likes

Hmm, really Dublin? Granted there is a very successful bike-hire scheme and there are bike lanes in various areas but Dublin Buses total lack of respect to cyclists is unbelievable! 'I'm pulling out, if you don't get out of my way I'll turn you into a hood-ornament!'

I've been commuting all year round and the only hassle I've has been from Dublin Bus.

posted by boardmanrider [70 posts]
20th September 2011 - 8:45

3 Likes

cat1commuter wrote:
Why only one Dutch city? If this was an objective study, every Dutch city would be on the list.

From the press release: "At the end of the day, over 80 major cities around the world were rated. Ideally, we would have also included smaller cities, but we decided to narrow it down to major cities. Smaller cities like Groningen, Netherlands or Malmö, Sweden would have fared extremely well, but the line had to be drawn somewhere."

Only Amsterdam, Rotterdam and possibly The Hague would appear to meet the size criteria.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8329 posts]
20th September 2011 - 8:48

4 Likes

Hmm, Helsinki and Stockholm both should be higher on that list. And I'd rather cycle round Edinburgh than London any day, so where is my former home city on that list? I've never cycled in Barcelona but having been there a few times I'm not sure I'd want to as it makes London seem calm and laid back. I go to Paris a lot and wouldn't want to cycle there either.

As for Buenos Aires being on the list at all...

I've cycled in Berlin and Munich and can confirm that they are indeed very good for pedalling around.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2271 posts]
20th September 2011 - 11:11

5 Likes

I was surprised Rotterdam didn't make the top 20, that's a big city that is certainly more cycle friendly than any UK city I've ridden in - whether you are riding on the road , where there are no cycle lanes, or in the segregated lanes

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4152 posts]
20th September 2011 - 11:45

2 Likes

Whether it results from the larger geographical scale and so longer commuting distances, or from cultural differences, or from political/legal environment, there is no doubt that the London cycle commuting culture is predominantly Vehicular - own the road, take the lane, keep up with the traffic, get out of my way if you are slower. Adonis on a bike, that's me, in my lycra or shorts/Tee in all weathers, on my fixie/carbon road bike/skinny tyres. I'll shower when I get to the office and change into my suit there.

All of that is a huge turn-off to ordinary folk who are potential cyclists, and until London can overcome the barriers to normal folk who would just like to hop on and hop off, without changing their clothes or kitting themselves out to look like an alien, it doesn't deserve to be in the top 100 cycling cities.

posted by Paul M [319 posts]
20th September 2011 - 13:26

4 Likes

I wear the cycling kit on the commute as it is comfortable. It doesn't seem to put off the chap in his pinstripe on his Brompton or the Italian tourists on Boris Bikes. The route from Canary Wharf to the City is busy with people 'kitted out like aliens'. It's also used extensively by people with their trousers tucked into the socks (me at the weekend on the way to dinner). I think slightly larger things like skip lorries driven by lunatics might play a bigger part in putting people off cycling in London.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
20th September 2011 - 16:43

3 Likes

Hmm… but there are plenty of cyclists in Holland that don't hang about I've seen rush hour in a Dutch city and there were lots of people who were definitely riding as fast as they could - I didn't have to look too hard to spot some in Lycra either. There were also streets in Rotterdam that didn't have segregated cycle lanes so the locals on their bikes were also out there mixing it with the motorised traffic. Haven't Dutch and German businesses for years been required to provide showers, changing facilites, and cycle parking for their cycle commuting employees? Someone must surely be using these?

As for London aren't Boris bikes for simply hopping on and off of? They are certainly very visible in Central London these days and seem to have plenty of takers too with many Londoners, especially rail commuters, seemingly treating them as another branch of the public transport system.

It seems a bit rum to me for a city like London to have seen a simply massive growth in the number of people riding bikes on its streets and then for campaigners to complain that all these new people on bikes are the wrong sorts of cyclist and are part of the problem not the solution.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4152 posts]
20th September 2011 - 22:49

6 Likes

I'm glad they didn't create a list of cycle unfriendly cities they would of run out of paper. But Plymouth, Devon would of had a mention lol....

Live to Ride, 'cycling a real sport'

posted by shaun finnis [24 posts]
21st September 2011 - 5:04

2 Likes

I have just followed the Tour of Britain through the UK and I would have to say that bikers in London have to be amongst the bravest on earth. The cycling conditions I saw when driving from Balham to Heathrow in the morning rush hour were appalling yet there are hundreds of cyclist out there. The roads are narrow, the traffic dense and the drivers impatient and aggressive. What cycle lanes exist are painted on the side of the road and motorists for the most part seem to take no notice of them. Can't reallt blame the drivers I guess - the traffic would drive anyone to distraction. I live and cycle in Vienna Austria and it is cycle heaven compared to London. My commute is 12kms each way and I spend about 400 metres of that on the roads, the rest is separated cycle paths. London has a long way to go and they are starting well behind the eight ball. My hat is off to those brave London cyclists - try to stay alive!

posted by HT [1 posts]
21st September 2011 - 14:38

3 Likes

HT wrote:
I have just followed the Tour of Britain through the UK and I would have to say that bikers in London have to be amongst the bravest on earth. The cycling conditions I saw when driving from Balham to Heathrow in the morning rush hour were appalling yet there are hundreds of cyclist out there. The roads are narrow, the traffic dense and the drivers impatient and aggressive. What cycle lanes exist are painted on the side of the road and motorists for the most part seem to take no notice of them. Can't reallt blame the drivers I guess - the traffic would drive anyone to distraction. I live and cycle in Vienna Austria and it is cycle heaven compared to London. My commute is 12kms each way and I spend about 400 metres of that on the roads, the rest is separated cycle paths. London has a long way to go and they are starting well behind the eight ball. My hat is off to those brave London cyclists - try to stay alive!

Thanks, this confirms this study was a joke, as I thought how on earth could London be ahead of Vienna!!

whizz kid

posted by whizzkid [62 posts]
21st September 2011 - 20:26

3 Likes

Philadelphia might never make the list. We have posted signs around the city limits that say, "Welcome to Philadelphia, A Bike Friendly City" but that's mostly an empty gesture. Unfortunately most of the bike lanes disappear into car traffic lanes every time you need to cross a bridge, or sometimes they just fall off into a ravine where the edge of the road is eroded away. Nearly all of the "bike paths" are actually "multi-use paths" which means cyclists, joggers, dog-walkers, etc. are pitted against each other. And there is a huge population of novice hipster cyclists who don't have a clue how to use their bikes responsibly and constantly run down pedestrians, aggressively cut off motorists, and generally ruin the reputation of the other 90% of cyclists.

posted by TheBigMong [218 posts]
22nd September 2011 - 17:29

5 Likes

I liked cycling in Vancouver when I was there, it was lovely. I would put that on any list.

I cycle one third of my 9 mile commute on bike lanes through wandsworth and clapham common, a few more on quiet back streets, and the last couple going into the city are busy.

I have to comment that my average speed on the bike lanes, while i ride slower along them, is higher than the sections on the both busy and indirect back roads as I am not having to wait for busses, stop at lights, be prepared to give way to every car that I see who may not see me. It is much nicer to ride through too, the air doesnt taste bad like on CS7/the blue car parking lane, and it is a whole lot more relaxing. I ride VC on the roads and would wear technical stuff and change at work anyway but I would happily ride all the way in on cycle paths, I dont think it would slow my journey much if they were well done.

I definitely take the point that Copenhagenize are anti vehicular cycling, but i think that is because VC is a cycling response to an undesirable cycling-for-transport environment, having to share roads with the kind of driving that we see in London: fast, often unaware how close is too close, not always looking out for cyclists.

It is the kind of cycling environment that works for people who are confident/really want to ride, but it is uninviting for everyone else and not good for children. If you really want to allow everyone to go by bike you have to make cycling a safe and appealing option so that people who currently drive feel that cycling might be nice and that they would be safe doing so. Infrastructure definitely helps with that, but it has to be good infrastructure, not just the odd bit of paint on the road positioned where it won't inconvenience motor traffic.

The mistake the copenhagenize people make is assuming VC cyclists are against cycling infrastructure full stop. I think most of us would welcome good infrastructure where we would feel safe riding with our families. But bad infrastructure which herds cyclists into dangerous situations (for example the roundabout at E&C) can be more dangerous and worse than none.

sparrow_h's picture

posted by sparrow_h [35 posts]
21st May 2012 - 10:02

2 Likes