There are many ways to see a city. As a dedicated cyclist, I love to do it on two wheels. Getting around by a bus tour, taxi or even driving yourself limits your interaction with the living, breathing city. When you sightsee by bicycle, your eyes, ears, and nose, not to mention some muscles all play a part in appreciating what makes that place special. May is National Bike Month in the U.S., so what better reason to take a look at some of the best cities to sightsee by bicycle – both in the U.S. and abroad.
Great Cities to Sightsee by Bicycle
Amsterdam, Netherlands – Amsterdam is the Queen of bicycle-friendly cities with 881,000 bicycles pedaling 476 miles of cycle paths and bike lanes. You can rent a bike at no less than 29 businesses and when you want to take a break to visit an attraction, there are over 10,000 bike parking spots, including eight free garages. You’ll have no trouble sightseeing by bicycle on your own or with one of many guided tours. Or get out of the city and explore farmland and canals in the flat countryside.
Austin, Texas – Austinites love their fitness as much as their music and are happy to share both with visitors. Voted as one of the top 20 bike-friendly cities in America by Bicycling Magazine, Austin has plenty of beautiful routes to sightsee by bicycle. Pick up a cycling map at one of the many bike shops and take a mountain bike to the Barton Creek Greenbelt, join a regular “no-drop” group ride with Bike Austin, or tour Austin’s hip neighborhoods and city landmarks with a guide on a pedal assist e-bike. Afterward, partake of a coffee or beer with new friends and soak up the “Keep Austin Weird” vibe.
Tucson, Arizona – Tucson has some terrific reasons to sightsee by bicycle: The Loop, a 131-mile car-free network of paved paths and trails; the TUGO bike-share program that makes it easy for visitors to grab a bike and go; and year-round sunny and dry weather. That’s why People for Bikes ranks Tucson in the top 10 best places for bikes in the U.S. For serious cyclist training for competition, climbing Mount Lemmon is a rite of passage and there’s no better way to enjoy the beautiful Sonoran Desert than on a mountain bike trail.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada – With 400 miles of bike paths (and always expanding!), Montreal is one of the best cities in North America for visitors who want to sightsee by bike. From April 15 – November 15 you can rent a bike for as little as $2.95 (30 minutes) from the BIXI bike-share system that is actually considered part of the city’s public transit system. Montrealers don’t let a little snow stop them either, but the BIXI system shuts down in winter. Organized bike tours include architecture, hidden gems, street food, brewpubs, and even yoga. Plus, each spring the Go Bike Montréal festival draws thousands of two-wheeled enthusiasts of all ages.
Washington, D.C. – Along with spectacular monuments, incredible museums, and historic government buildings, our nation’s capital is known for traffic jams and difficult parking. What better reason to grab a Capital Bikeshare ride and explore on two wheels? You can also take in spectacular city skyline views from along the Potomac River on the 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail or follow the C&O Canal Trail from D.C. all the way to Cumberland, Maryland. There’s more to see and more miles of trail around Washington, D.C. than you can ever do in one vacation.
These are some of my favorite cities to sightsee by bicycle but are by no means the only ones. Copenhagen, Denmark tops every list of bike-friendly cities with about 250 miles of dedicated bike lanes and a very pro-bike culture. Seattle, Washington timed all 300 traffic signals for 23 miles per hour, narrowed lanes, and added traffic islands to calm vehicular traffic and make cycling safer. Fort Collins, Colorado built bike under- or overpasses at nearly every main street crossing to keep cyclists from having to deal with cars at all. Portland, Oregon is one of few cities with an adaptive bike share that serves people with disabilities. Barcelona, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo all support sightseeing by bicycle, too.
When you explore a city by bike, you become part of the city. You get to engage with it personally and physically. Cycling lets you feel the rhythm of the city and appreciate its unique tune. Plus, every cyclist will tell you that cycling makes you happier, healthier, and better looking! So next time you visit one of these cities, try sightseeing by bicycle to get a whole new perspective.
Note: Many cities, bikeshare programs, and tours do not require the use of helmets; however, helmets are the only reliable way to protect against head injury. I, personally, would never ride without one. – Beverly