Where pedal power rules

2012-05-25 14:30

Although most travellers know that Copenhagen and Amsterdam are ideal for exploring on bicycle, the rise of bike-sharing and bike tours in other cities is making it easier than ever to discover destinations on two wheels.

Here is virtualtourist.com’s list of the top 10 spots to explore on bike.

» Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Although Montreal’s most famous paths may lie underground, its most intriguing routes in the upcoming warmer months lie among its 3 900km of bike trails and paths.

Montreal, the first North American city to adopt a bicycle-sharing programme, has a few popular rides, including along the Lachine Canal, the quays of the Old Port and Rue McGill.

In addition to paths within the city, Montreal lies in the centre of the Route Verte, a series of bikeways throughout Quebec modelled after Denmark’s national cycle routes and the Danube and Rhine bikeways.

The route, which starts further west at Fort-Coulonge, also connects Montreal with Quebec City to the north.

» Portland, Oregon
Two parks line the Willamette River – Waterfront Park to the west and Eastbank Esplanade to the east – giving visitors the opportunity to take in both the city view and the river’s scenery while cycling.

A two-block detour from Waterfront Park at the Burnside Bridge will take travellers to the Portland Saturday Market.

For a great example of Oregon’s conservation efforts, travellers can head further south to the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is a floodplain wetland and is well known for its bird population.

» Austin, Texas
Because one of cycling’s greatest celebrities, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, calls Austin home, more people are exploring the area by bike.

One scenic route to try includes the paths along Lady Bird Lake, after which sightseers can ride up to the Barton Creek Greenbelt.

For a little more of the flavour that makes Austin famous, start your ride in the SoCo neighbourhood, biking up Congress Avenue and over the Congress Street Bridge (with its bats), towards 6th Street, where many of the country’s most legendary music venues line the avenue.

» Hell’s Gate Park, Kenya
Located about 93km northwest of Nairobi, Hell’s Gate National Park is small by African standards, but still includes the variety of animal species you’re likely to see in the Kruger Park, including lions, leopards and cheetahs.

In addition to being able to explore the park by bicycle, guests are also allowed to camp in the park, one of only two Kenyan national parks where this is allowed.

Though there is much to explore in this savannah, it is often used as a stopover when en route to the Masai Mara Reserve or nearby Lake Naivasha National Park.

» Paris, France
Though the first bike-sharing programme in France originated in Lyon, it is Paris that gets most of the credit for spurring the craze around Europe.

Paris’s bike-sharing programme, called Vélib’, is now as synonymous with a Parisian experience as the Louvre and steak frites.

Over the past few years, Vélib’ has grown to more than 20 000 bikes with sharing stations every 300m.

The initial benefits were aimed at commuters and residents, but it has become a popular tourist activity as well.

Easy routes to explore include points along the Seine River, particularly Quai Branly and Quai d’Orsay, which provide ample landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and multiple museums.

Another neighbourhood to see by bicycle is Le Marais, with the Place des Vosges, Maison de Victor Hugo and Musée Carnavalet, which are all nearby.

For those interested in discovering a spot slightly outside of Paris, the grounds at Versailles are perfect for exploring by bicycle.

» Prague, Czech Republic
Though the hilly topography of the Czech Republic’s capital might scare off some participants, many tourists suggest exploring Prague by bicycle.

Most tours originate in the Old Town, giving riders the opportunity to cruise along the Vltava River and see both the Charles Bridge and Frank Gehry’s Dancing House.

The opposite side of the river, the Malá Strana, has more legitimately marked bicycle paths, particularly near Prague Castle and Letna Park.

For the more ambitious rider, one can cycle the Prague Vienna Greenways from Prague to Austria, with the opportunity of making a detour to see the Unesco site of Ceský Krumlov.

If both of these plans sound too difficult, another suggestion might be to rent an electric bike, as the motor helps to make the hills of Prague much less intimidating.

» Vietnam and Thailand
An increasingly popular area to explore by bicycle is Southeast Asia. Many tourists recommend Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand as great destinations to cycle.

In Vietnam visitors can travel from the capital city of Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Another suggested spot is Bangkok and its Unesco neighbour, Ayutthaya.

Take a train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, the former Thai capital, and then rent a bike upon arrival to explore at your own pace.

In addition to the ancient temples and ruins, the Summer Palace is also located here, as well as some notable markets.

» Seville, Spain
Although it has the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, Seville, the jewel of Andalucia, had little to no bicycle culture to speak of until the new millennium.

But in the past few years, the city has gained 120km of bicycle routes throughout the city and has started a bicycle-sharing programme.

These updates make it much easier to travel from the Plaza de España to the cathedral in one day. Visitors should not forget to explore the Santa Cruz neighbourhood, which lies along the Alcazar.

Though, with its narrow streets, it may be better seen on foot.

» Kyoto, Japan
Japan may be well known for its high-speed trains, but many residents and visitors of its cultural capital prefer to travel within the city by bicycle.

Exploring by bike in Kyoto allows tourists to circumvent the traffic, as well as to sneak on to back streets they wouldn’t normally find when driving around.

Also, the city is quite spread out and much of the public transportation doesn’t stop very close to all the attractions, so it may actually be quicker to rent a bicycle.

Many hotels rent bicycles to guests, but they are also readily available near Kyoto Station.

» Bruges, Belgium
Though the most obvious mode of exploring Bruges may be a canal tour, the city is also easily travelled by bike.

By starting at the belfry in the market or city hall on the Burg, visitors can easily bike to other sights, such as the Basilica of Holy Blood and the Church of Our Lady, which features Michelangelo’s Mother and Child sculpture.

For a longer ride, the Vlaanderen Fietsroute (Flemish Cycle Route) makes it possible to cycle from Bruges to other Belgian cities, including Gent, Antwerp and Brussels.

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