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
17 San Francisco
18 Rio de Janeiro
20 New York City
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