Youth girl with vintage bike


Best hipster cycle cities

Published July 4th, 2014

Have fixie, will travel. Pedal power beats walking when it comes to travelling around a new city and definitely trumps public transport for the freedom and flexibility to really get in and explore hipster ‘hoods and off-the-beaten track destinations. And forget pesky parking woes and figuring out public transport, most public bike-sharing systems allows you to release a cycle from a rental station with just your credit card or a smartphone. Get set for two-wheeler tourism in these cycle-friendly cities. FYI: helmets are recommended but not required in these global cities.




Number one on the Copenhagenize Index of Bicycle Friendly Cities in 2013, which takes into account cycling culture, infrastructure and facilities, half the trips in Amsterdam’s CBD are by bike with 40 percent of commuters getting around on two wheels.  Surprisingly for such a fixie-friendly city, there’s no public bike-sharing system in place, however short-term rentals are available from tourist hubs like Centraal Station, Leidesplein and Dam Square to zip around the canals and narrow winding streets like a local.


So Amsterdam: Amsterdammers dress for the destination, not the trip, so leave the fluoro, cycle shorts and Lycra at home. And it’s not exercise, it’s about getting around!




At number two on the 2013 Copenhagenize Index, and generally vying with Amsterdam for the top spot, the Danish capital is another city where pedal power rules. Over half the population commute by bike daily and a Cycle Super Highway even has traffic lights timed to cyclists’ speeds. Again, since the Bycykler Kobenhavn bike-sharing scheme (the world’s first) was scrapped in 2012, there’s a limited number of electric-motor Bycyklen public cycles for hire or try Copenhagen Free Bike Rental where you pay a donation to use a salvaged bike for up to three days.


So Copenhagen: The Copenhagen Cycle Chic photo blog shows stylish locals rocking bike-friendly kicks and custom cycles like nobody’s biz. Note: No word on what to do about helmet hair!




The hipster capital of America was an early adopter of the two-wheeler trend with the most cyclists per capita in the US. Portland has over 483 kilometres of bikeways including off-street bike paths, dedicated bike lanes on the road and low-traffic bike boulevards. There’s no public bike-sharing scheme here, but you’ll find heaps of places to rent a cruiser, tandem, Dutch-style bike or whatever you fancy!


So Portland: Dubbed ‘Beervana’, Portland is also the beer capital of the world with 53 breweries. Pair the city’s twin obsessions with a Breweries by Bike tour with craft brews and custom cycles.




Ranked as the best North American city for cycling, Montreal  (a.k.a. ‘Bikelandia’) not only has almost 4,000 kilometres of bike paths to tool around town, it’s also in the middle of the Route Verte –  a 5,000-kilometre network of bikeways in Quebec that connects Montreal to Quebec City. Visitors can get on their bike with the BIXI public bike share system that’s available from April to November annually (no cycling in snow, y’all).


So Montreal: Want to know how much Montrealers love to cycle? Let it all hang out at Cyclos Nus de Nuit (Night Naked Bike Rides) – a celebration of bicycles and bodies held every summer.



San Francisco

The counter-culture capital was always going to do things a little differently and San Fran was the founding city of Critical Mass – mass bike rides that take place in cities across the world, after all. While the hilly terrain may not scream bike friendliness (imagine the burn!), San Francisco is ideal to explore on two wheels with plenty of cycle infrastructure. Jump on a Bay Area Bike Share cycle where the first 30 minutes of each trip is free, or hire a rental bike.


So San Francisco: In case you get cycle separation anxiety, take your ride to the annual Bicycle Music Festival with a pedal-powered PA system, multiple festival stops by bike to different venues and a mobile stage mounted on cargo cycles and trailers.




Pedalling along the Seine with a beret, striped tee and a baguette in your basket may be the ultimate Parisian cliché, but we’re totally down with that. Paris has one of the world’s largest bike-sharing programs in Vélib’ with 20,000 cycles available at 1,800 docking stations found only 300 metres apart. There’s also heaps of brand-new bike lanes and off-street cycle paths to smooth your way and add a certain je ne sais quois to your Paris experience.


So Paris: Live out your Left Bank fantasy at Le Ride Béret Baguette, an annual celebration of vintage bicycles where the dress code is retro and participants cycle from Paris to a meadow in Bois de Vincennes for a picnic #livingthedream.




There’s the iconic double-decker buses, black cabs and now the blue bicycle? Yep, London has the Barclays Cycle Hire public bicycle scheme, known colloquially as ‘Boris Bikes’ after the former Mayor of London who introduced the program, with heaps of bike lanes in Zone 1 so you can avoid the daily London Congestion Charge for driving a vehicle in the area. Hire one of 10,000 cycles at over 700 docking stations in Central and East London.


So London: Get your geek on at Bespoked – the UK Handmade Bicycle Show. Held annually, this year’s event was held in London.


Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.