5 years, 6 months ago
Ernest Hemingway once said “…it is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” The same is true for cities, you get to cover more ground quickly, feel the shape of the land you peddle over. With recent years seeing more and more urban areas around the world introducing public bike-sharing schemes and miles of brand new bike paths to encourage exploring on two wheels, there are so many amazing urban bike routes out there. Here are just a few of my favourites you should coast along one day.
An Island Getaway in New York City: Governors Island
Good for beginners & families
The car-free Governors Island is one of the safest and most picturesque places to cycle in New York City. Bring your bikes across on the summer ferries departing from Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park or Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan, or even rent some bikes when you arrive (by the way you can get an hour’s hire for free between 10 in the morning and midday). Only open to the public since 2003, the island is still in the midst of a number of development programs to make the most of its new parklands, but it’s already well set up for cyclists to explore historic buildings, green open spaces and to enjoy magnificent views of Manhattan from Picnic Point.
Canals & Rivers in Amsterdam: City Centre to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel
Good for intermediates & families
If you follow Amsterdam‘s main river, the Amstel, out of town and head south you’ll enjoy views of not just a handful of key sights like the famous “Skinny Bridge” – but also one of the city’s few remaining windmills. Eventually, the path opens up onto luscious farmland and the quaint delight of Ouderkerk, a small town that feels like it should be a hundred miles away from the country’s capital city. In reality, the round journey totals about 25 kilometres. This may be a bit too long for little legs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t come along. Remember you’re in the cycling capital of the world so you can easily hire a “bakfiets” (bike with a box on the front for kids to sit in) or one with a child seat so the whole family can go.
History & Parklands in Budapest: Andrassy Avenue to Margaret Island
Good for beginners & intermediates
The unsung hero of European cycling cities, Budapest has over 200 kilometres of cycling paths and a dedicated website to help you find the best routes in the city. Cycle the 2.5 km length of Andrassy Avenue, one of Budapest’s most famous streets, to see Hero’s Square and maybe stop at a museum or two. Then let the cycle path lead you south to the Danube which you can cross at Szabadság Bridge. Here on the Buda side of the water you’ll find a riverfront cycle path that takes you along the river passed the famous Chain Bridge, which you can also cycle across, but if you take the following bridge you can access Margaret Island, another car-free urban island made up mostly of parkland and cycle-friendly paths. If you want a more adventurous cycle, then take your bike on the Cogwheel Railway, aka the number 60 tram, from Városmajor Station to Szechnyl-hegy Station in the Buda Hills, which offers a little gradient and a lot of view.
Coastal Cape Town: Camps Bay to Hout Bay
Good for intermediates & experienced
The mostly coastal route from Camps Bay to Hout Bay is a very flat and easy 22 kilometre bike ride offering spectacular views of the ocean on one side, and the rugged green beauty of Table Mountain National Park on the other. If you’ve still got any energy left in your stems, extend your journey and navigate through Hout Bay, along Chapman’s Peak Drive and to the Silvermine Nature Reserve for a spot of hiking. It’s worth noting that this entire route is on roads which don’t have separate cycle lanes, so it’s better for those with a few cycle tours beneath their spandex belts. Cape Town itself does have a few dedicated cycle lanes, the longest and most useful of which is from the city centre to Table View, a 16 km route that’s incredibly worth doing for some alternative coastal views and, of course, the opportunity to look back at Table Mountain from your final destination.
Barcelona Beaches: Forum to Premià de Mar
Good for beginners, intermediates & families
This coastal route is for beach-lovers who want to access the beaches of Barcelona which are a little harder to get to, and therefore cleaner and quieter. The bike path begins near Forum (which is already a great spot for kids) and keeping the Mediterranean on your right you can head north stopping as often or as little as you like depending on how many beaches you want to explore. If you make it all the way to Premià de Mar, you’ve cycled 16 kilometres. While it is possible to take your bike back to the city on the train, try to avoid this during rush hour. Barcelona also has El Bicing, its public bike scheme for use in the city, but there aren’t stations further north than Forum.
And no matter which city you travel to, it may be worth checking MapMyRide to find other bike routes that people have shared. And always be sure you know local rules regarding cycling and road safety before setting off.