Bicycle usage across European nations exhibits significant disparities, with the Netherlands and the Nordic countries leading the charge. Surprisingly, a substantial number of individuals abstain from cycling altogether.
Active mobility stands out as a paramount means of conserving energy. By choosing to walk or cycle, not only do you reduce energy consumption, but you also enhance your physical and mental well-being.
This is why the European Commission actively encourages everyone to “harness your own energy.”
Cycling has already gained widespread popularity in certain European countries, notably the Netherlands and Denmark, where bicycles hold a substantial share of the transportation landscape.
How frequently do Europeans engage in cycling? Which countries demonstrate the highest and lowest levels of cycling activity across Europe? Moreover, which cities foster the most bicycle-friendly environments?
Numerous surveys featuring diverse inquiries have delved into this subject, and there are also available indices for cross-country and intra-city comparisons. These resources collectively provide insights into the cycling culture prevalent throughout Europe.
Bicycles or privately owned scooters serving as the primary mode of transportation
In 2019, the Eurobarometer survey revealed that 8% of European Union citizens identified privately owned bicycles or scooters (including electric ones) as their primary mode of transportation on an average day.
Remarkably, the Netherlands stood out with 41% of Dutch respondents citing bicycles or scooters as their primary means of transportation, making the country an exceptional outlier. Sweden followed at 21%, with Germany at 15%.
Only seven countries surpassed the EU average in terms of bicycle and scooter usage. These included Hungary (14%), Finland (13%), Denmark (12%), and Belgium (12%).
Conversely, Portugal and Cyprus reported a negligible 0% usage of bicycles or scooters as the primary mode of transport. The United Kingdom registered 2%, while France recorded 3%.
Generally, Mediterranean EU Member States exhibited lower usage percentages, while their Nordic counterparts demonstrated higher rates of cycling by this measure.
Comparing Bicycle Usage: Mediterranean vs. Nordic Countries
In the 2013 Eurobarometer survey, Europeans were asked about their frequency of cycling. Within the European Union, 29% reported cycling at least once a week, with percentages varying widely from 3% in Malta to a remarkable 71% in the Netherlands.
Once more, a consistent pattern emerged when comparing Mediterranean and Nordic countries in this regard.
The Netherlands secured the top spot, with the highest proportion of people cycling at least once a week, surpassing Finland (57%) and Denmark (56%). Sweden followed closely at 42%.
Hungary, Germany, and Poland all boasted cycling rates exceeding 40%. Austria and Slovakia both reported that four out of 10 individuals cycle at least once a week.
In contrast, 18% of respondents in France indicated cycling at least once a week, while the United Kingdom ranked 24th out of 28 countries, with a mere 14% reporting weekly cycling.
Conversely, Malta (3%) registered the lowest rate of weekly cyclists, with Cyprus (10%) and Greece (12%) not far behind.
The proportion of individuals who never partake in bicycle riding is quite remarkable.
Upon a deeper examination of the survey, it’s noteworthy that half of the respondents from the European Union disclosed that they never engage in cycling. These findings are indeed startling, with certain countries exhibiting even higher proportions, surpassing the 70% mark, of individuals who abstain from bicycle use.
Malta stood out significantly, with a staggering 93% of respondents indicating that they never cycle. Other Mediterranean nations such as Cyprus (82%), Portugal, and Greece (both 75%), as well as Spain (73%), also reported substantial percentages of non-cyclists.
In the United Kingdom and Bulgaria, this figure reached 69%, signifying a significant portion of the population refraining from cycling. Unsurprisingly, the lowest percentage of non-cyclists was observed in the Netherlands, where only 13% reported never cycling. The three Nordic countries closely followed, with approximately 20% of their populations abstaining from cycling.
Frequent bicycle riders are prevalent in the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands, approximately 43% of respondents engage in this activity daily. This stands in contrast to Denmark and Finland, where roughly 30% and 28% of respondents, respectively, also cycle daily. Notably, the European Union average for daily cycling was 12%.
In France, a mere 5% of participants reported cycling daily, while in the United Kingdom, the figure was even lower at 4%.
For 50% of Copenhagen’s residents, the bicycle serves as their primary mode of transportation.
The term “modal split of passenger transport” refers to the proportionate distribution of various modes of transportation, such as road or rail, within the overall transportation network.
When considering European Union capitals, Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, stands out with the highest share of cycling at an impressive 49%. This statistic underscores the fact that cycling serves as the primary mode of transportation for nearly half of Copenhagen’s residents, as per data gathered by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF).
In Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, cycling accounts for 35% of passenger transport.
Meanwhile, in cities like Helsinki, Berlin, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Dublin, and Stockholm, the modal share of bicycles registers at 9% or higher.
The ECF advises caution when comparing cities, as results may significantly vary due to disparities in data collection methods and years. Hence, making direct comparisons should be approached with care.
European cities take the lead as the world’s most bicycle-friendly urban centers.
The Copenhagenize Index assesses cities based on their initiatives to reintegrate the bicycle as a practical, embraced, and viable mode of transportation.
For the 2019 index, over 600 cities worldwide, each with populations exceeding 600,000, underwent evaluation. Notably, three-quarters of the cities in the top 20 are situated in Europe.
Copenhagen takes the lead, securing the top position with a score exceeding 90, closely pursued by Amsterdam (89.3) and Utrecht (88.4).
France showcases remarkable performance with three cities ranking within the top 10, namely Strasbourg, Bordeaux, and Paris. Additionally, three German cities make it to the top 20: Bremen, Berlin, and Hamburg.