Cycling in an urban environment doesn’t have to mean dodging cars, doing battle with pedestrians and surreptitiously ducking the wrong way down a one way street only to be met by the boys in blue at the other end. Here we highlight five cities which really have their bike groove turned on high.
The wild card: Rome, Italy
I know. It doesn’t make sense. They drive like maniacs, it’s awful crowded in the holidays and road signs are non existent. But actually Rome is a little cycling city of joy and here’s why. Firstly most of the areas around the big architectural sites are pedestrianized meaning bike access between them and to them is infinitely better than using a car. And the journey is stunning – Rome is quite literally a feast for your eyes.
Secondly while the city has begrudgingly painted in some bike lanes you can effectively ignore these and instead make use of the river path to get across the city which is peaceful and calm.
Thirdly you can get out of the city pretty easily to link up with the ancient Appian Way which in its heyday stretched the 330 miles from Rome to the port of Brindisi. You’ll need a bike with a touch of suspension unless you want to practice your Roubaix skills but the scenery is beyond beautiful so well worth the trip. Don’t feel compelled to ride all of it obviously but once you start you may find it difficult to stop.
Where to stay:Eco Hotel Romais located in the Valle dei Casali which is, believe it or not, a big green corridor just minutes form the centre of Rome. And they serve organic food. Which you know, is a good thing.
Where to eat: bit rude really singling out one place. So just put Boccondivino on your list. No tourists just great, reasonable food.
The obvious choice: Copenhagen, Denmark
Every since Copenhagen Cycle Chic burst onto our radar and made us feel inadequate every time we wore those five-year-old tights to commute in, the city of the same name has been a must-visit bike destination.
A third of Copenhagers cycle commute to work (no doubt looking very stylish as they do) and the city has 350km of cycle paths – most of which are separated from the traffic making them incredibly safe. At some junctions there are even lights that flash when a cyclist is approaching to warn cars.
Paris, London, Brisbane – loads of cities these days have a public bike scheme. Copenhagen does too, except its scheme is FREE. Okay, the bikes aren’t amazing but they’ll get you from A to B. Apart from the snow in winter this is probably up there as one of the best cities in the world to ride a bike. FACT.
Where to stay: Hotel Ibsens (www.ibsenshotel.dk). It’s not going to blow you away in terms of opulence but it’s classic Danish design in a good location and the staff are nice.
Where to eat: Falernum (www.falernum.dk). The wine is good, the coffee, good, the atmosphere erm, good. A real locals’ wine bar and restaurant with a cosy menu and the kind of vibe that will make you sack off cycling for the afternoon. Oh hang on …
The one Down Under: Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne has the perfect climate for cycling: it’s like the UK. But warmer. Occasionally it’s blistering hot but not often enough like Brisbane, a two-hour flight up the coast into Queensland, to make any form of outdoor activity impossible.
On top of that there are enough trendy people and their counterpart cafes, restaurants and bars in a square mile to make riding a fixed gear seem totally appropriate.
Hills are not really an issue in the city itself and then you’ve got the coastal area of St Kilda for a beachside pootle. There is a network of bike lanes and more cycle cafes than you can shake a stick at – make sure to check out Tokyo Bike in Collingwood.
True the public transport system is actually pretty good – trams circle the city regularly and for not a lot of expenditure – but there is a certain joy in urban riding and Melbourne is a good place to weave in and out of its famous lanes and along its South Bank.
The trams rule the road: keep out of their way. That’s a good thing though, because unlike the rest of Australia, car drivers here don’t act like entitled demigods.
The one issue with riding a bike in Australia is that a helmet is mandatory. But they make them look cool these days so it’s a small price to pay if you’re one of team anti-compulsory.
Where to eat: 1000£Bend is a warehouse art space that has a café sectioned off. The furnishing is eclectic with a random assortment of couches, chairs and tables.You are actively encouraged to graffiti the toilet walls and the food is simple and good.
The hilly one: San Francisco, USA
There are some hills in San Francisco which are so steep you get halfway up walking and realise you’re crawling. Then someone shoots past you on their bike in the correct gear and you feel like sticking something in their spokes. But what’s awesome about it is working out the routes that are flatter for those days you want to chill and then beasting yourself when you want to train harder.
For example if you want to go from Nob Hill to the Mission and chill, do not whatever you do go down Castro for you’ll burst a lung. San Francisco is one hell of a healthy city. You can put your bike on the front of buses and there are lots of places to lock them up.
True there is some antagonism between riders and drivers and bikes share bus lanes much like in the UK rather than having their own. But overall this is a really forward thinking city and it’s got a good bike scene (this is where the first MASH urban fixie movie was filmed) which is well worth exploring. And it’s not just road – over the bridge in Marin County you’ve got cracking mountain biking too.
Where to stay: Inn on Castro. Great spot, lively surrounds and fab hosts. Well worth checking out.
Where to eat: Try Gracias Madre in the Mission. It’s vegan Mexican food and it is delicious. Great atmosphere and killer margueritas.
The coffee stop heaven: Goteborg, Sweden
The Swedes have a phrase; Ska vi Fika? Which sort of means ‘shall we have a coffee break?’ It’s both a description and an intention and to be honest has no literal translation into English. But Goteborg does coffee well. Very well. And cake.
In autumn the city is a beautiful mish mash of colour and the nip in the air sends you scuttling indoors. But only after your ride of course. Big wide avenues interlace with hills, cobbled streets and sea view vistas making a trip on two wheels a charming experience.
Being Sweden drivers are very polite and 600km of bike lanes coupled with a comprehensive bike network make cycling a cinch. Brutal wind in winter, but in spring and summer you can spend days investigating the network of lakes outside the city or just cycle from café to café and cinnamon bun to cinnamon bun.
Where to stay: the boutique Avalon hotel is perfectly placed near to cobbled and arty Haga district.
Where to eat: So many cafes to choose from. Try Café Kringlan on Haga on Haga Nygata which is cosy, comfy and the food is hearty. Exactly what cold rides call for.
Got a favourite cycle city? Share the love – we’d love to hear about your travels.