Copenhagenize – an index of bike-friendly cities


What are the best cities for urban cycling? Copenhagenize Design Co., specializing in urban design consultancy and advocates of prioritizing biking solutions in cities, started this discussion in 2011 and managed to give cities around the world a score in order to determine the best methods to re-establish the bicycle on the urban landscape.

Copenhagenize reminds us that ‘every city used to be bicycle friendly’, before planners changed the paradigm and built infrastructure around cars, relegating bikers, pedestrians and public transport users to a lower class. They argue that the bicycle makes sense in a city, and encouraging its use is obligatory for a modern, intelligent city.

Originally, the Index was meant to be an internal tool for the company, as they needed the information in order to better advise cities on how to work towards a more bicycle-friendly urban landscape, infrastructure, planning and urban design. They soon realized it would be a resource of great interest for the public. They rank over 100 cities each time, but only publish the Top 20. In the most recent Index of 2015, they focused on metropolitan areas with a population of over 600,000, with a few exceptions, and ranked 122 cities.

The team found that cities seem very interested in measuring progress around bicycle transportation issues. They highlight the fact that research shows enormous social, economic, environmental and health benefits of investing in bicycle infrastructure. Interestingly, studies show that for every kilometre cycled, society enjoys a net profit of 23 cents, whereas for every kilometre driven by car we suffer a net loss of -16 cents.

The 2015 Index

The first place goes to Copenhagen this year, overtaking Amsterdam, the leader of the previous two editions of the Index. Copenhagenize found a lot of surprises in 2015, with new cities like Buenos Aires entering the Top 20. Europe also does well overall but, surprisingly, Germany is not one of the better examples, with Berlin falling, Munich going off the list entirely and Hamburg hanging on by a thread.

The Top 20 bike-friendly cities according to the Index (in brackets, the position occupied in the previous 2013 index):


  2. [1] AMSTERDAM
  3. [3] UTRECHT
  5. [8] EINDHOVEN
  6. [9] MALMÖ
  7. [6] NANTES
  8. [5] BORDEAUX
  9. [7] ANTWERP
  10. [4] SEVILLE
  11. [17] BARCELONA
  12. [10] BERLIN
  15. [11] DUBLIN
  16. [NEW] VIENNA
  17. [19] PARIS
  19. [20] HAMBURG
  20. [14] MONTRÉAL


Copenhagen made the leap to first place mainly through what Copenhagenize called ‘the greatest urban experiment’. This is something that was not planned to increase bike usage, but did – 17 construction sites for the new subway network in Copenhagen have made driving ‘a pain in the ass’, thus people gave up on it and got on their bikes to avoid the congestion. Besides this happy accident, they also made big investments in cycling infrastructure like ramps and bridges.

A new city on the Index, Ljubljana has started to focus on increasing cycling levels recently through infrastructure and a new bike sharing programme, and there is serious political movement to establish Ljubljana as one of the world’s great bicycle cities. It was chosen as the European Green Capital in 2016 and it is well positioned for further growth in cycling facilities, thinks the Copenhagenize team.

How are cities ranked?

Briefly, cities receive between 0 and 4 points in 13 different categories, and a potential maximum of 12 bonus points for particularly impressive results. Categories include advocacy, bicycle culture, facilities, infrastructure, social acceptance, perception of safety. For a full list of categories and more details, visit the Criteria page on the Copenhagenize website.


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