How bicycle-friendly is your city?

Cyclists ride in Copenhagen

Cyclists ride in Copenhagen, the second most bike-friendly city in the world. Photo by Copenhagenize Design Co.

Last month, Copenhagenize Design Co., a consulting firm specializing in bicycle advocacy, announced their ranking of the 20 most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. Though dominated by European cities, the list has inspired cities around the world to work towards being more cycle-friendly.

The Copenhagenize Index of bicycle-friendly cities uses a system of points, awarded in 13 categories. The categories included the usual suspects, such as bicycle culture (do regular citizens bicycle or only sub-cultures?), bicycle facilities (are there readily accessible bike racks, ramps, space for bicycles on trains and buses?), and traffic calming (what efforts have been made to lower speed limits and calm traffic?). Some of the criteria were surprising: cities earned points based on the political climate regarding urban cycling, the comprehensiveness of a city’s bike share program, and on the ratio of male to female city cyclists. In addition to the points awarded for the thirteen criteria, a substantial amount of bonus points were awarded for “particularly impressive efforts or results.”

These bonus points helped some new cities to make their way on to the list. Rio de Janeiro, which is ranked twelfth, gained bonus points for “particularly innovative planning projects, social acceptance, and political will.” Seville, Spain also benefited greatly from the bonus points, ranking fourth on the list in part because of an 80 km bike path which was completed in one year.

Seville is a good example of a country which has worked hard in the past few years to improve its bicycle-friendliness. Since 2006, the bicycle’s share of transportation in Seville has increased from .5% to 7%– a striking increase. This is accounted for, in part, by the city’s successful new smartbike bike-sharing system.

Despite bonus points for quick action and innovative thinking, strongholds of bicycle-friendliness- like Amsterdam and Copenhagen- remained at the top of the list. In their press release, Copenhagenize acknowledged that these cities “coasted to their placements based on status quo more than innovative thinking [or] the eagerness to move forward that we see in other cities.” Obviously, maintaining a bicycle-friendly city is important work, but the newcomers to the list are more exciting. “The emerging bicycle cities,” wrote Copenhagenize, “are not just transforming their own urban landscape; they are inspiring cities around the world in showing what is possible in a short amount of time. These are the visionaries.”

In an interview with The Atlantic, Mikael Colville-Anderson, CEO of Copenhagenize explained the importance of these Emerging Bicycle Cities: “The cities that are moving fast are the ones who are keeping bicycle users safe and encouraging them to ride,” says Colville-Andersen. “Political will is important, but it’s the planners and engineers who need to google ‘Cycle Track Best Practice’ and start presenting these ideas at meetings.”

The list has almost no representatives from developing countries. But many developing cities are working hard to be competitive the next time such a list is released. In Turkey, where none of the cities were even indexed, let alone ranked in the top twenty, efforts to increase bicycle-friendliness continue. Turkey’s ministry of Environment and Urban Planning recently announced that it has allocated the equivalent of 1.5 million USD towards improving bike paths throughout Turkey. Istanbul’s Metropolitan Municipal Environmental Master Plan calls for the construction of at least 1,000 km of bike path.

Efforts like these are happening in developing countries around the world as “the renaissance of the bicycle continues unabated.” Still, there is much to be done before these developing countries can compete with Denmark, France, and cities throughout Europe according to Copenhagenize’s current metrics. Perhaps there is a need for a different list, which emphasizes innovation and recent progress more heavily. It could be called, “The World’s Newest Bicycle Friendly Cities.”

The current ranking is the second list published by Copenhagenize. The first was published in 2011.

This post was originally published in Turkish by Esra Suel for TheCityFixTurkiye. To read the original, visit http://thecityfixturkiye.com/2013-copenhagenize-bisiklet-dostu-kentler-endeksi/.

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