With our CR8 project gearing up for the Kickstarter launch June 1st, we’ve completely immersed ourselves in bike culture. Privileged to live in such a bike friendly city ourselves, we wanted to know where else in the world are there paved lanes, cleaner air, less cars, and a thriving biking community. This week we picked a new city from around the world each day that we think go above and behind when it comes to cycling. Stay tuned for part two later this week and read more below and follow the CR8 journey on Twitter and Instagram.
Copenhagen: A Century of Rides
With Chicago finally thawing after a long winter, we’re excited to get back on our bikes and ride. Personally, we think Chicago is one of the best cities in the world for biking. With 200 miles of paved lanes, flat terrain, and (newly) elected pro-bike politicians, we consider ourselves lucky to ride in the Windy City. As bikers and adventurers though, we want to know where the other great biking cities of the world are. Our first stop is in the beautiful capital of Denmark: Copenhagen.
Image credit: Mary Birdy
The Danish city gets it right when it comes to car-alternative lifestyles. At the edge of the Baltic, Copenhagen has been committed to two-wheel transportation for a century. As early as the 1800s, biking has been a staple of the country and the preferred way of travel. In the 1970s “Car-Free Sundays” were introduced followed by protests to ban cars in general.
Growing Up on Two Wheels
The Copenhagen commuting population consists of people traveling to work, the gym, meetings, and the kindergarten class…In Denmark, children are raised on bikes. As early as 2 years old, children are learning on pedal-free bikes to master balance and traffic rules and safety habits are incorporated into the curriculum. Outside the classroom, traffic gardens, which have been popping up in Portland, are available simulation courses for children to learn to properly bike and prepare them to eventually biking with traffic.
At the heart of the city is Strøget. It is one of the world’s longest pedestrian-only streets and lined with shops. With everything from Prada to H&M, the 1-kilo stretch is a must-visit for tourists.
J.C. Jacobsen founded Carlsberg beer and brewery in 1847, naming it after his son, Carl. The Danish brewery has gone under a series of renovations but plans to re-open the elephant gates in 2020.
In 2000, the 10-mile long Oresund Bridge connecting Copenhagen to Malmö, Sweden opened – but to motorists only. It only took a few years for a bike-friendly solution in the form of a restored 1940’s fishing boat named, the M/S Elefanten. The ferry takes 36 bikers at a time to and from the Swedish sister city.
Years before Divvy and dockless bike sharing programs took off in America, it was the standard in Copenhagen. In 1995, 1000 cycles were launched by Copenhagen City Bikes. By paying a refundable deposit at one of the 100+ stands, riders got to freely explore downtown.
Copenhagen made the top of our list with their proud Danish bike history and inclusivity. This week we’ll introduce you to 4 more cities who are on the right path when it comes to bike safety, design, and overall lifestyle. Thank you for reading and please keep following the CR8 journey as we are about to launch our website. Read more on the second city below.
Next Stop: Tokyo
Although Tokyo usually conjures images of neon, futuristic downtown and packed metro areas, the Japanese city has a thriving biking community. With approximately 13 million people, Japan has perfected public transportation travel and the bikers function in the packed city with a level of patience and tranquility not found in cities like New York or London. Japanese bikers tend to do short trips, traveling between the shouldering neighborhoods and running errands, while also escaping the city to beautifully scenic parks and trails.
Bikes Designed for Practicality
In Japan, mamachari bikes are the standard. This style of bike is sturdy with major cargo power. With baskets in front and racks in the back, the mamachari is designed to haul heavy loads – perfect for trips to the grocery store. With the term translating to “mom’s bike”, they are also designed to handle children with added seats and are reliable enough to safely bike with tots in the front or back. The traditional bike has pedal assist upgrades as well with companies like Panasonic offering electric versions (as seen below).
Cycle Spots: Showa Kinen Koen
Escaping the congestion of the city is a quick fix in the form of Showa Kinen Koen Park. Just 30 minutes outside the city, the park has almost 9 miles of bike paths and is an excellent spot for cherry blossom viewing. Visitors will also enjoy a bonsai museum, pedal boats on the lake, and ample space for picnics and barbecues.
Cycle Spots: Lake Tama
The cycling paths of Lake Tama are perfect for a relaxing ride. Paved and mostly flat, the route is fit for families on mamacharis but sprawling enough for more experienced riders looking to stretch their legs outside the city. This “natural getaway” is also home to wasabi farms and sake breweries.
What’s Trending in Tokyo
Perfectly timed wheelies with Japanese backdrops make this account a fun follow and show off the different spots around the city. Mamoru Kanai (@mamotoraman) documents his tricks on a classic mamachari proving the bike is a lot more flexible than it looks.
Taking it “Tokyo Slow.” tokyobike is aptly named as the independent bike company designs for the roads and riders specifically in Tokyo. “We emphasize comfort over speed, and a feeling of lightness at the first turn of the pedal. It’s much about the journey as the destination.”
Tokyo surprised us with their traditional biking, adaptive riding, and scenic tracks. We’re taking it back to the states with our next city: Portland.
The third city on our list is America’s cycling sweetheart: Portland. The Pacific Northwest city is home to seasoned, experienced riders who have mastered traffic, car jams, and potholes as well as off-roading trails. With most of the inhabitants on two wheels, there are more bikers per capita than anywhere else in the country. Portland is the perfect city to explore art, food and drink while still getting quality miles in.
Portland: The City That Breathes Biking
With such a high biking population that finds ways to keep growing (about 3%/year), it’s no wonder Portland tops global and local lists for the best place to live car-free. As of 2017, 22,000 people biked to work in the city contributing to cleaner air, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and a happier and healthier population. Over 350 miles of bike paths make the commute an easy trek, especially with Mount Hood as a scenic backdrop (as seen below).
Locals and visitors alike can quickly explore the city using one of the thousand Nike BIKETOWN bikes. The bike share program was launched summer of 2016 and uses orange Social Bicycles operated by the same company behind Divvy, Motivate. For 8 cents per minute, you can cruise around like Albert the munchkin cat (below). Image credit: @catmapper.
Cycle Spots: Anywhere With Street Art
Portland’s artistic community is as thriving as the biking community and it shows at every turn. Specifically, the street art culture. Many of the public art and murals within the city are commissioned and embraced. The Portland Street Art Alliance is a non-profit organization that works to preserve and educate the public on the importance of public art. Their efforts help foster a supportive and diverse art community. Take advantage of their online art maps which are the perfect guide for a bike ride highlighting the hidden gems of the city.
Where to Refuel
Craft Beer – Oregon born and brewed, the Deschutes Brewery Public House is the perfect way to end a ride. The HQ is located in central Oregon, but the PDX location offers the same rich staples like Pacific Wonderland IPA, Lil’ Squeezy Juicy Ale, and seasonal porters.
Coffee – Stumptown Coffee Roasters has been boasting a huge expansion over the past few years, but their roots remain in Portland. Originally opening in 1999, the coffee roasters made their mark with high-quality blends and giving back to local non-profits.
Copenhagen, Tokyo + Portland. What’s Next?
Portland has kept ahead of the pack for best biking cities for years and there’s no sign of stopping. With inclusive bike sharing programs, a bike-positive commuter population, and enough beer and cold brew pit stops it’s one of the best biking cities we’ve come across. As we wrap up our 5-day city tour next week, feel free to send us a city you think deserves recognition. Thanks for reading and ride safe.