Experiencing a city at street level is one of the best ways to get to know a place, and cycling can be a quick and convenient way to do it. But not all cities are compatible with cycling culture; not all cities have the landscape, infrastructure and cultural respect that makes cycling easy and fun.
Here is a list of some of the most bicycle friendly cities, where urban peddling is one of the most delightful ways to see the sights.
Peddling through the vibrant streets of Berlin, it occurred to me that I couldn’t claim to know the city until I’d experienced it by bike. Cycling seems to be the popular inner-city transport option, with suited businessmen, women in heels and students with book-laden baskets joining the free-flowing cycle crowd.
Laced with wide, organised cycle lanes and dotted with bike-racks, Berlin is certainly one of the most bicycle friendly cities I’ve encountered. It has the happy fortune of being mostly flat (only a couple of big hills), and has open inner-city parklands, meaning that trendy single-speed and fixed-gear step-through bikes are a practical option, as well as a fashionable one. It is also a joy to wheel along knowing that Berlin drivers are well accustomed to bicycles and know to keep their senses alert and distances well measured.
There a quite a few operators running bicycle sight-seeing tours through Berlin, if you’re looking for an easy introduction to the world of wheels. Many backpacker hostels, tourism agencies, hotels and shops in Berlin dabble in the bicycle hire trade, meaning you don’t have to wander far to find yourself some wheels. Keep in mind that private hire, through private accommodations or locals, is often the cheaper hire option though. Helmets are not needed by law.
San Sebastian, Spain
With its sea-side bicycle paths and flat coastal terrain, Spain’s small city of San Sebastian offers wonderful possibilities for bicycle adventures. The inner city and beach boulevards host dedicated cycle lanes with plenty of stopping space, which makes city cycling safe, easy and generally enjoyable.
Sights worth a look-see during your two-wheeled tour include the lookouts on top of Monte Urgull Mendia and Monte Igeldo Mendia, the pair of headlands that tower over city and sea, as well as the ornate bridges over Rio Urunea, and the break wall beside Playa de Zurriola. Also, take a ride along the picturesque Playa de la Concha and Playa de Ondaretta, past the iron-lace railing and carousel, stopping at one or two of the cafes along the way.
The pretty cobbled streets and Renaissance buildings of historical inner Florence are only made more romantic by cycling between the glorious sights. Closed to through-traffic, the narrow Florence streets are largely dominated by bicycles and scooters, a set-up that adds to the calm, casual elegance of the city.
While the city doesn’t have many bike lanes, the general attitude towards cyclists seems to be accepting, meaning that cycling with the traffic is a very real option for even the most inexperienced cyclists.
Bicycle hire stores are common throughout Florence and helmets are not required by law.
Street culture is a main attraction in Berlin and cycling the colourful city streets is one of the best ways to see it. Try hiring a bike from one of the apartments in Berlin city , or through one of the many hire vendors, and take your adventures out on a two-wheeled tour.