– Written by Victoria Philpott
Every day I cycle the 9-mile round trip from my home in London to the HostelBookers.com office. I dread the dark days of winter when I’ll have to board public transport again. Cycling in London works for me, I feel like an urban warrior combating cars, motorcyclists and the worst of all, crazy pedestrians, along the city’s volatile roads.
London has a way to go before we can include it in our top cycle-friendly cities, but here are 8 cities that believe bikes are best. We’ve checked out the rental opportunities, the terrain and just how dedicated they are to two wheels over four.
As one of the most expensive cities to visit, it makes sense to take advantage of Copenhagen’s friendly attitude to cyclists to save money on your transport costs.
The city has plenty of flat terrain, perfect if you’re not the fittest of wannabe cyclists. Copenhagen is often cited as the top of the cycle-friendly cities – especially helped by over €20million of investment from the government. There are over 350km of cycle paths which are separated from the main traffic, and another 20km of on-the-road separate cycle lanes. There are also plans to add to the 41km of greenways – aimed to allow for fast, safe and fun cycle transport from one end of the city to the other.
It’s free and easy to take your bike on Copenhagen’s train network – just make sure you’re in the specified carriages at the front and rear. You can also take your bike on the waterbuses, but not on the regular buses.
Copenhagen’s popular urban bike-sharing project, Bycyklen (City Bikes), gives FREE access to the extensive bike path system using robust public bicycles. Just put a 20 kroner (€1ish) piece into the bike rack as a deposit and you’re free to explore the cycle paths of Copenhagen.
When your legs have ran out of pedal just drop the bike off at one of the 110 stations and your money will be refunded.
Cycle-friendly hostels in Copenhagen
The newly converted Hostel Belægningen is 9km from Copenhagen Centre, in cultural Hvidovre. They have bikes for customers to rent year round. With modern facilities – including a TV room, a kitchenette and a free internet café – and affordable beds, it’s a great choice for a restful night. Hostel Belægningen once housed the dormitories of soldiers, but now it has single, double and 4-bed rooms with en-suite toilets and a private bath. Private rooms start at €20.46 pppn.
Just a few minutes from Copenhagen’s Central Railway Station, you’ll find Hotel Ansgar. Its central location means you’re only a few minutes walk from Tivoli Gardens, the famous shopping street of Strøget and Town Hall Square. The quiet street is perfect for getting to grips with the hotel bike rental. They have a courtyard with a bar and a traditional Danish buffet breakfast is included. There are 81 rooms to choose from, with 1-4 beds and all with wi-fi. Private rooms start at €43.60pppn.
Amsterdam, another wonderful city that keeps cyclists close to its heart and on the road. There are around 750,000 people in Amsterdam and 600,000 bikes, hmmm I’m guessing the deficiency is babies and oldies. Anyone from toddler-age up, has got a set of wheels…
Amsterdammers have really worked on the fun side of cycling with a whole host of tours – go self-guided and get a free pass for the canal boats, or join a singing tour around the Red Light District, or get in the countryside to see the windmills and drawbridges.
There’s 400km of cycle path in Amsterdam – perfect for exploring the 17th century city centre. Using a bike is faster and cheaper than public transport and you’ll get to see more of the city from the freedom of the saddle. There’s no citywide bike rental scheme but as well as hostels offering bike rental, you can also find companies in the main hubs such as Central Station, Leidseplein and Dam Square. Rentals start from three-hour sessions to a full day; the average day price is €8.
Amsterdam’s popularity as a cycling city is helped enormously by the flat terrain – at least 40% of the city prefers to get around by bike. And nowhere in the world is cycling more prevalent than in the capital of the Netherlands. If you can’t beat them, join them.
Make sure you remember the exact spot that you left your bike though – some cycle parks can hold up to 7,000 bikes.
Cycle-friendly hostels in Amsterdam
In the heart of Amsterdam’s city centre Hostel Van Gogh provides cool, modern facilities at a great price – including cycle hire for guests. The secure keycard lock system will ensure you feel safe, and, if you’re a woman travelling solo, there’s also a female-only dorm. There are 2-6-person private rooms available and 5-8-person dorms. At Hostel Van Gogh you can easily cycle to the many bars, markets, shops, clubs and restaurants of the city. Dorms start at €25pppn and privates at €28pppn.
With bike rental available from the reception desk Stayokay Amsterdam Zeeburg is a great hostel from which to explore the city from the freedom of a bike saddle. Housed in a former school from 1900, the hostel has been renovated to make the most of its history but also to modern specifications. You’re just a 15-minute cycle ride away from all the main sites of the city. Bedrooms are spacious with private sanitary facilities. Dorms start at €26pppn and privates at €20pppn.
Barcelona is wising up to the examples set by Copenhagen and Amsterdam. They’ve built a ‘Green Ring’ so cyclists can cruise the whole metropolitan area on bike-only routes.
Following the green ring you’ll pass through 12 different protected natural areas. You could make a stop to enjoy a picnic or test the boating lakes. Cycling is the best way to get around Barcelona – there are over 100km of bike lanes. If you’re a bit unsure about your route start at Diagonal, it’s the biggest cycle lane in the city and a ride from there down to Maria Cristina Metro Station is a relaxing start to your city tour to help you get your cycling legs in gear.
If you’re Barcelona-bound with your own bike, you’ll be pleased to know they’ve built a new underground bicycle park. The ‘Biceberg’ operates like an iceberg – keeping all the important stuff below ground. It’s 30 cents per hour and very secure against theft.
Taking your bike on the metro is allowed but there are blackouts at peak times, and make sure you’re in the right carriage.
A few years ago they launched ‘Bicing’ – where you can purchase bicycle cards to use the stationed bikes around the city, for 30 minutes. Unfortunately this is only available to residents as you have to sign up for a yearly membership (€6) and usage cards will only be posted to Catalonia addresses to prevent tourists using the system. But there are plenty of bike hire companies throughout Barcelona, just ask at your hostel for advice.
Cycle-friendly hostels in Barcelona
At AptBcn Super Balmes you’ll find two private apartments located on the same floor – each with 5 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms – making them perfect for groups of 10-12 people. Located in the heart of Barcelona the bedrooms are on the exterior side and have balconies and glass window doors allowing you to look out over beautiful Barcelona. La Ramblas is just a 5-minute walk away and bike rental facilities are close by. Private rooms from €30pppn.
In the centre of town close to the Passeig de Gràcia, the Barri Gòtic district and Plaza Catalunya you’ll find Hotel Petit Palace Barcelona. This beautiful hotel offers top quality rooms at budget prices. You can enjoy a breakfast buffet every morning and free access to the on-site fitness suite. They have bike rental for sightseeing, daily newspapers, hydro massage showers, big bathtubs, a sauna, wi-fi in every room and an outdoor terrace. Private rooms from €44.09pppn.
Berlin takes its cyclists very seriously6. All new roads must have cycle lanes, and all the existing ones are being updated. They’re doing pretty well at the moment with over 620km of cycle paths and 190km of off-road routes.
The best thing about cycling in Berlin are the wide streets – Karl Marx Allee is 90m wide. The pavements are wide enough for everyone too, so don’t be afraid of skipping on up the curb if you need. The second best thing is that it’s almost completely flat – there are no uphill struggles in Germany’s capital.
Perhaps the worst thing is that Berlin is huge! But don’t let that put you off – you can easily take shortcuts through parks with no dithery oldies tutting at you, and you can take them on all tubes and trains, as long as you buy a separate ticket.
If you don’t have your own bike there are plenty of rental shops about, where a full day’s hire starts from around €8. Or, sign up to the city’s ‘Call a Bike’ scheme, where you do just that. Bikes aren’t docked, the iconic cycles are left at a designated area, like next to a crossing, and the integrated lock mechanism keeps them there. After registering on the scheme you can unlock the bikes by using a code you’ll receive on request to your phone. Bikes cost 5cents a minute and €15 for 24 hours.
Cycle-friendly hostels in Berlin
In the centre of Berlin in a quiet and peaceful district you’ll find Smarthostel-Berlin. They have a bike rental service so you can make your way into the town and they also have a cosy and relaxed atmosphere to escape the pressures of real life. Choose from spacious singles and doubles, as well as multi-bed rooms and family apartments for up to 4. Indulge in the large breakfast buffet in the morning, and the complimentary high-speed wi-fi. Dorms and privates start from €14.11pppn.
In the 19th century it was a convent but now the Three Little Pigs Hostel has a beer garden, kitchen, bar, fusball table and DVD setup, and there’s an all-you-can-eat breakfast for just €5. What would the monks say? Located at the famous Potsdamer Platz Square you’ll be just a short cycle ride away from the buzzing districts of Mitte and Kreuzberg, and you can rent bikes directly from the hostel. Dorms start from €11.46pppn and privates from €18.52pppn.
Paris is well-known for its dedication to cyclists. Since 2007, when the popular Velib scheme was introduced, the city has been a haven for city cyclists whether they’re trying to beat the traffic to work, or just want to explore at their own pace.
The streets of Paris are wide and smooth, you’ll easily whizz by the cars and buses as they stick in traffic. There are just a handful of cycle routes though, travel will be mostly via bike lanes alongside the main traffic. Or, in the traffic using the road markings. Because of the popularity of cycling in Paris, road users are well used to looking out for cyclists. For a bit of jet-powered fun pick up a bike from the heights of Belleville or Montmartre and freewheel your way to the bottom, though looking at those hills you’ll want to get a bus back up.
You’re currently not allowed to take your bike on the Paris subway, except on Line 1 at certain hours on particular days.
Of course Paris is in a country that’s always loved cycling, it’s the home of the Tour de France. And their city bike scheme, known as Velib, is the biggest of all the European cities. It’s simple. Pick up a bike from one of the Velib stations and for your first 30 minutes it’s free. The bikes are funded entirely by JCDecaux in return for city adspace. They’re more subtly coloured than their European counterparts, inkeeping with the French-style, oo la la. Over 20,000 bikes are available 24/7 and 1,800 bike stations located at 300m intervals.
Cycle-friendly hostels In Paris
Paris’ Caulaincourt Square Hostel is a distinctly bohemian property located right next to Montmartre and Le Sacre Coeur. They offer bike rental directly from the hostel, allowing you to explore the city without the restrictions and confines of public transport. And there’s plenty to explore around here, it was once the stomping ground of well-known artists such as Picasso, Modigliani, Brancusi, Juan Gris, Appolinaire et al. Private rooms from €29pppn.
Less than a 10-minute cycle from the famous Champs Elysees you’ll find the Hotel Regence. Warm and welcoming the hotel is near the fashion district and the Moulin Rouge, as well at the Sacre Coeur and enough restaurants, brasseries, cinemas, pubs, nightclubs and theatres to keep you entertained forever. Rooms are cosy and refined with comfortable beds, a wardrobe and a dressing chair. You’ll also have wi-fi access, room service and a mini bar to enjoy. Private rooms from €47pppn.
There are 9million bicycles in Beijing, so says Katie Melua. Well, whatever the precise number, there are a lot. Cycling in Beijing is a rite of passage when visiting the city.
Beijing is a flat city to cycle around but it’s the readiness and ease of cars, and the demolition of certain cycle routes that has cast it aside.In 2010 the Beijing officials launched a campaign to get the people of Beijing on the cycle routes and off the car-chocked roads. Official figures show that 20 years ago 4/5 of the city’s population cycled to work, but now it is just 1/5 saddling up every day.
The Chinese Government plans to roll out an official city-wide bike rental scheme by 2015 with 50,000 bikes to hire across the capital. As well as updating old cycle routes and increasing the amount of bike parking available.
There are plenty of private bike hire companies in Beijing, rentals start from around 10yuan (€1) per day plus a cash deposit.
Riding around you’ll see locals with an entrepreneurial spirit with roadside stalls offering puncture repairs, tyre changes and offers to fix up anything else wrong with your bike. Be prepared to pay around 5 yuan (€0.50) for the pleasure. And in Wangfujing you can even pay to get your bike guarded.
Cycle-friendly hostels in Beijing
Built on a 400-year-old historic site Beijing Si He Courtyard Hotel is just 10 minutes from the centre of Beijing. They have a free bike rental service and Wangfujing Avenue, Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square are all nearby. Decorated with antique furniture and carved ancient symbols they have beautiful and traditional accommodation. If you’re feeling flush there’s a VIP room, complete with a king-size bed and palatial lanterns. Private rooms start from €39.95pppn.
Set in an ancient 15th century palace the 3-star Beijing Perfect Inn is right in the centre of the city. Their bicycle rental service means you can be out on some wheels checking out the city within minutes of arrival. For extra pedal power make sure you tuck into the big American breakfast included in the price. Each room has large beds, a walk-in shower and separate bath tub, air-con and heating, wi-fi, mini bar and incredible views across the city. Private rooms from €15.44pppn.
The officials of Miami have committed to making the city bicycle friendly by 2012. They’re modernising old cycle routes and creating new cycle-only lanes, as well as creating more facilities for cyclists such as docking stations and cycle proficiency lessons. (Look closely at the pic below, notice anything slightly odd?)
The Florida Department of Transportation has invested in a continuous 31-mile-long greenway between the south end of the Metrorail to the South Miami-Dade Busway. With year-round bike-friendly weather and upcoming investments in making the roads more cycle-friendly, Miami should be one of the top destinations for cyclists.
They’ve also introduced ‘sharrows’, chevron-shaped street marking to indicate when traffic lanes are to be shared with cars and bikes. The railways have added 600 bike lockers and thousands of dollars will be spent on safety improvements on cycle lanes throughout the city.
In March 2011 the Miami government rolled out the ‘Decobike’ scheme, open to everyone. A fleet of 1,000 custom bikes are accessible from 100 solar-powered bike rental stations 24/7. Ride free for 30 minutes with a daily access pass, and then just dock it and pick up another if you want to go further. You can join for an hour, a day or a month, allowing total flexibility. There are stations all around Miami and you can even download the app that will tell you where the nearest station is. It’s $5 for your first hour and enrolment is currently free.
Cycle-friendly hostels in Miami
Miami Beach International Travelers Hostel is great value – they offer so much free stuff you’ll never want to leave. There’s a free breakfast, lunch and dinner, free nights, free wi-fi, free tours, free drinks, free dance parties and free games tournaments. They also have a bike rental service so you can explore the South Beach in more depth. Both private and dorm rooms have private bathrooms, TVs and security lockers. Dorms start at €17.40pppn and privates at €34.10pppn.
Backpackers, crew members, students and tourists love The Miami Hostel. Located on South Beach you can enjoy the free breakfast, free wi-fi and free bike rental with the sea and sand in the background. There’s a lush courtyard, a Jacuzzi, a pool table and a bar to keep you busy. Rooms are spacious and stylish, with comfortable beds and a cool atmosphere. There are free activities most nights – BBQs, ping pong comps, movie and poker nights. Dorms start at €16.01pppn.
Cycling in San Francisco is growing in popularity, thanks mostly to the increase and care given to the cycling infrastructure. As far as the terrain goes, the city is extreme. It’s mostly completely flat but the famed steep hills can make cycling exhausting, and sometimes impossible.
There’s still quite a way for San Francisco to go to complete the proposed 2009 Bicycle Plan, but the 60 near-term improvements are underway, including 34 miles of additional bicycle lanes, of which 11 are currently completed. If you’re right in the centre of the city in the most densely populated area, it’s easy to cycle to the shops and entertainment in the area. But the outskirts are more suited to mountain bikers than city cyclists.
There’s no citywide bike rental scheme as yet, but there’s enough private rental shops in the city to make the idea redundant. You can even rent a tandem at some of them. The Government is helping its cyclists though, they’ve installed over 1,500 bike racks and decreed that all new car parks must provide a relative amount of bike racks to car parking spaces.
Another initiative to get people out of cars and on their bikes is Sunday Streets. On occasional Sundays throughout the year they close the roads to cars and only allow bikes, skates and those on foot to pass through.
Cycle-friendly hostels in San Francisco
At the Green Tortoise Backpackers Guesthouse you’ll get free meals, free wi-fi and even a free sauna. It’s located in the city by the bay and the free bike rental means you can cycle the few minutes to Chinatown, San Francisco Bay, Fisherman’s Wharf and Little Italy. There’s a kitchen, a pool table and fusball table, a piano, a stereo and quiet areas too – there’s also a bike rack to store your bike safely. Beds are guaranteed to be comfy. Dorms and privates start at €22.96pppn.
If you’re looking for a peaceful retreat to rest your legs after a busy day’s cycling you’ll find it at HI – Fisherman’s Wharf. Surrounded by gorgeous bay views, walking trails and National Park territory, you can even see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz from your bedroom window. With your bike you’re just a short cycle from city too. There’s bike storage, a games room, and a guest lounge with a wood- burning stove. Dorms start from €20.87 and privates from €29.58.
Thanks to elsamu, Alex Cheek, Amsterdamize, Simon_Music, Shayan (USA), robertcupisz, toolmantim, tomis_b, Patrick Stuele, Mr. Usaji, *clairity* and Joe Shlabotnik. Please note, all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.
What’s it like to cycle where you live? Let us know below…