Outside of urban centres in Denmark and Holland, most cities remain far from truly being bike-friendly, a growing problem as cyclists are growing in number.
Political and social leaders are becoming aware of the environmental and social benefits of bikes and are consequently seeking to encourage their use.
According to studies conducted in Denmark, for every kilometre cycled, the city enjoys a net profit of 23 cents, while for every kilometre driven by car, it suffers a net loss of 16 cents.
Population growth and and urbanisation in Australian cities demand mobility solutions, and bicycles have proven to be a strong solution, making investment in bicycle infrastructure a modern and intelligent move.
Danish consultancy and communications firm Copenhagenize Design Co. specialises in bicycle promotion, research and liveable cities and has recently released Copenhagenize Index 2013, which ranks 150 cities around the world in terms of bike friendliness.
The criteria used to assemble the list included a city’s bike culture, facilities such as bike racks and ramps on stairs, the amount of space allocated on trains and buses, bicycle infrastructure, bike lanes, bike share programmes, the perception of safety of the cyclists in the city, helmet laws and urban planning.
In terms of urban planning, emphasis is put on how much city planners care about bicycle infrastructure, whether they are well-informed on international best practice and the efforts they make to lower speed limits to increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
These criteria were divided into 13 categories and cities were ranked on a scale of one to 100.
Amsterdam ranked as the world’s most bike-friendly city with a total 83 points, and Copenhagen came a close second with 81. No Australian or North American cities make top 10, with Montreal ranking highest at 11th.
“The primary difference in the success of the emerging bicycle cities on the list and those cities who didn’t make it is really down to infrastructure,” said Copenhagenize urban mobility expert Mikael Colville-Andersen.
“Barcelona, Seville, Dublin, Bordeaux, among others, have been making progress by creating safe infrastructure for users. There were no bicycles in these cities six years ago, but now they are well on their way to double-digit modal share.”
Though Australian cities do not yet rank among the most bike-friendly in the world, authorities are constantly developing strategies and plans to improve and encourage bike use.
The Australian Bicycle Council was created to oversee and coordinate the implementation of the Australian National Cycling Strategy 2011-16, which aims to see the number of people cycling in Australia double by 2016.
The Strategy’s goal is backed by six key priorities and objectives that mirror the Copenhagenize Index’s criteria: to promote cycling as a safe and fast way of transport, to improve infrastructure and facilities by creating continuous bike-lane networks, to integrate bike paths to urban planning, to improve cyclist safety, to encourage a national investment in cycling and to support the development of nationally consistent guidance for stakeholders share practice across jurisdictions.