A new global ranking that assesses cities for the quality of their cycling networks shows that UK cities have a lot of catching up to do with others around the world, none making the top 40 – although the compilers add that US cities could learn from the British capital prioritising active travel in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic via the Streetspace for London programme.
City Ratings, devised by the US nationwide cycling advocacy organisation People For Bikes, has been compiled for a number of years and is published annually in June, but this year includes cities outside North America for the first time, in 11 countries – Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The ranking also uses a new methodology this year, scoring 768 cities on two measures – a Network Score, weighted to account for 80 per cent of the total, and a Community Score, which makes up the remaining 20 per cent.
The former assesses the quality and connectivity of a city’s cycling network, while the latter is based on how residents feel about cycling around the city they live in, with the full ranking – and details of which factors influenced scores for individual cities, as well as interactive maps, available on a dedicated microsite.
The top five of the ranking is dominated by cities in the Netherlands, with Utrecht taking top spot, followed by Zwolle and Groningen. Provincetown, Massachusetts appears at number four, followed by Amsterdam in fifth place. The Danish capital Copenhagen follows in sixth, then Rotterdam, Barcelona, Seville and Antwerp.
While just six points separate the top 10 cities, with Utrecht scoring 83 out of 100 and Antwerp 77, there’s a 20-point gap to the highest-ranked British city, London, which is in 43rd place on 57 points.
Edinburgh is in 57th place on 53 points, Manchester sits 68th with 50 points, Birmingham ranks 139th on 41 points, and Glasgow takes 278th spot with 33 points.
Other European cities sitting above London, with their position and rating appearing in brackets, include Ghent (12, 73), Munich (18, 68), Paris (20, 66), Berlin (21, 66), Madrid (25, 64) and Brussels (28, 62).
London was one of several European cities highlighted in a People For Bikes blog post aimed at highlighting lessons that US cities could learn from their transatlantic counterparts.
The author of the post, Jack Foersterling, focused on Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Streetscape for London programme, introduced as a response to the coronavirus pandemic and aimed at encouraging active travel, including by reallocating roadspace for cycle lanes, wider pavements, and introducing LTNs.
He highlighted that Transport for London (TfL) figures showed that levels of cycling in the city had doubled as a result, and acknowledged that “While there is pushback about certain bike lanes and whether or not the money involved in Streetscape for London was well spent, initial research suggests that the LTNs are popular. The main complaints are around inequitable distribution and the lack of public outreach prior to implementation,” he added.
Turning to what US cities could learn from London, he wrote: “Acting quickly and prioritising all road users can assist in larger public health initiatives. While not every initiative is going to be a massive success, implementing projects equitably and soliciting community engagement throughout their lifespan is key to making sure infrastructure actually serves residents.”
Quoted in The Times on the research, Adam Tranter of UK cycling campaign group Bike Is Best, which brings together companies and organisations within the sector, said: “We’ve seen about a decade of progress in around a year in London and some other UK cities when it comes to active travel infrastructure, but this report shows that we are still lagging behind some of our European neighbours when it comes to making cities fit for cycling.
“We’ve seen strong support and leadership on a national level but some local authorities have been dragging their heels when it comes to reallocating roadspace,” he added.
While no scores have been produced for cities with high levels of cycling such as Cambridge and Oxford, People For Bikes invites people to put forward their own city for inclusion in future editions.
One issue we’d point out relating to the ranking is it’s not entirely clear how the cities themselves have been defined, going by the published populations; Paris, for example, is given a population of 9.8 million, which is much closer to that of the wider urban area (10.8 million) than it is to that of the city itself, according to its official designation (2.2 million).
London, meanwhile, is shown as having a population of 3.2 million – which is the population of Inner London as at the 2011 Census, with mapping accompanying the rankings suggesting that only those boroughs have been taken into account.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.