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10 (Almost) Car-Free Cities To Visit That Are a Cyclist's Dream

Exploring a city under your own power has the potential to be one of the most rewarding experiences a traveler can have. Unfortunately, it is not always an easy or safe proposition. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

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Thankfully, cities all over the world are realizing the benefits of adventuring on two wheels and planning their development accordingly. Bicycle-friendly roadways, dedicated paths, exciting innovations and even completely car-free areas are ensuring cycling is becoming increasingly popular for both residents and tourists all over the world.

Some cities have a long way to go, but many are already jostling for the lead in a race to cleaner air, happier people and impressive calf muscles.

10 Copenhagen

In 2016, the bicycle revolution came full circle in Copenhagen, with data revealing that there are now more bikes than cars on the streets of the Danish capital. According to recent statistics, 9 out of ten Danes own a bicycle and cycling accounts for a quarter of all personal transport less than 5 kilometres.

Life is experienced on two wheels in Copenhagen, with approximately half of its residents making use of the almost 400 kilometres of dedicated tracks flooding through the city. Off-street green routes running through parks and other natural areas make up a good portion of this infrastructure and is scheduled for expansion in the coming years.

Cycle superhighways linking the surrounding regions are also becoming a reality in a plan to spread the joys of cycling throughout the country.

9 Berlin

In a hopeful sign for cyclists, the Friedrichstraße, one of Berlin’s busiest central areas, went car-free for two hours in late 2018. It was a small experiment that came on the back of activists in the city calling for a cycling referendum and its success shows the direction the city is headed for two-wheeled transport.

Berliners have access to over 600 kilometres of cycling paths mixing roadside and off-road areas designed with safety in mind. There are also ‘Fahrradstrassen’, or ‘bicycle streets’ where cyclists have priority and vehicle speed limits are reduced.

With bicycles permitted on public transport, free bike share options available and plenty of stunning routes to choose from, there is no better way to see this iconic city than from the elevated position of a comfortable saddle.

8 Utrecht

The name of Utrecht’s action plan on cycling says everything you need to know: ‘Utrecht - we all cycle!’. The city council has decreed that the bicycle is the most important means of transport and in just four years, over 110 million euros has been invested in Utrecht’s cycling future.

Utrecht municipality Houten was awarded ‘Cycling City of the Netherlands’ in 2018, and it isn’t hard to see why. Houten was designed with cyclists in mind and has never lost its vision of a cycling paradise.

Utrecht is being studied by city and town planners across the globe looking to reduce heavy vehicle traffic in favour of pedal-powered travel. If you are looking for cycling heaven, you may just find it in this historic Dutch city.

7 Island of Sark

Now we’re talking! The Island of Sark, off the coast of Normandy, has completely banned all cars, opting instead to utilise tractors and horse-drawn carriages to traverse the beautiful island with history dating back to Roman times.

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Measuring in at just under 5.5 square kilometres in total, bicycles are without doubt the best way for visitors to explore the scenery bursting with plant-life of every colour, size and shape.

After exploring every inch of Sark, riders need simply drop their bikes back where they found them and clamber aboard a tractor bound for the port. Isn’t that the way every journey should end?

6 Oslo

When it comes to car-free cities, you simply can’t go past Oslo. On a bike, you are welcome everywhere but the same cannot be said for those on four wheels. As of early 2019, over 700 parking spaces have been removed from the city centre and replaced with bike paths, parks and other green spaces.

Many streets have completely banned cars, while others are heavily pedestrian-ised. The lack of parking options for motorists has essentially rendered the city streets free of harmful emissions and opened the floodgates for cyclists.

With bikes welcome on public transport, the stunning scenery surrounding the Norwegian city is wonderfully accessible. It is a breeze to gently enjoy the nature of one of the world’s most gorgeous countries without the hum of a car engine pursuing you.

5 Adelaide

The city of Adelaide, nestled snugly between rolling hills and a spectacular coastline, has a culture and infrastructure that actively supports cyclists of all levels. Bicycles are free to hire from a long list of city-wide locations and inner-city cycling is made safe thanks to dedicated bike lines flowing parallel to major streets and riding on the footpath has been legalized to promote rider safety. There is also a strictly car-free, open-air mall in the center of the city that is fully accessible on a metal steed.

It is the surrounds of the city however where Adelaide really shows off its pedigree as a cycling paradise. It is possible to ride from the hills to the beach, marveling at sights such as the iconic Adelaide Oval, along a dedicated bike path that follows the beautiful Torrens River. Riders can also enjoy the car-free Coastal Trail, explore the picturesque wine regions or take to the hills for an elevated adventure.

4 Portland

When it comes to discovering a city, not many unfold to cyclists in the majestic way that Portland does. With over 300 miles of bikeways, Oregon’s largest city welcomes riders to its unique landscapes with open arms.

Plans are in place to create the first ever car-free streets the city has seen, add even more bike lanes and increase the potential for non-motorized transport by 60%.

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Whether you enjoy rolling casually through the downtown area, cruising the Springwater Corridor across bike-friendly bridges and trails, immersing yourself in pristine forest panoramas or sampling the residential neighborhoods, Portland is accessible to all astride a bicycle.

3 Malmo

Twice named Sweden’s ‘Cycling City of the Year’, Malmo is continuing to build on the excellent work already done.

As far back as 2006, a campaign that went by the title of ‘No Ridiculous Car Journeys’ was launched in the city. The name itself shows how serious the city is about reducing automobile traffic in favor of self-powered options and estimates show that around 10,000 people took notice and ditched the gas-guzzlers.

With the world’s first cross-border sea ferry service designed especially for cyclists, a pilot project for bicycle garbage collection and consistently improving infrastructure, Malmo may be small on the world stage but it might just make the podium when it comes to cycling culture.

2 Antwerp

Widely regarded as the best city in Belgium for cycling, Antwerp is speeding up plans to upgrade the riding experience and progress is looking good. Exciting developments such as wider protected tracks along the beautiful harbor, combined bicycle and pedestrian bridges and a bold plan to reduce car traffic by sending a sizable bulk of the major ring road underground shows the positive path that Antwerp is on.

Registering with the excellent Shared Bicycle System, ‘Velo’, through a smartphone gives access to over 150 convenient bike stations within the city limits. This system is also being expanded from downtown to the neighborhoods, encouraging more citizens to take to the pedals. Potential travelers can even take a virtual ride online to plan out their journey and get a first taste of the joyful jaunts to come.

1 Bogota

Each week, miles of city streets in Bogota are liberated from machines to make way for cyclists, pedestrians and all other forms of self-powered travel. From 7am to 2pm on Sunday’s, cars are banned from the Columbian capital’s city roads. In place since the 1970’s, the concept has since been copied the world over.

Even outside of those hours, visitors and residents have access to more than 360 kilometers of smooth cycling paths that are estimated to be utilized by 84,000 people every day.

Simply put, if you want to ditch the automobile and get into gear on a bike, Bogota is the place for you. It doesn’t even need to be a Sunday.

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