5 fantastic urban cycling events
Looking to power up your pedaling skills? These cities have you covered.
In major cities around the world, officials are attempting to promote cycling as an alternative mode of transport. Bike-share services and infrastructure improvements proliferate. The early whispers of a cycling revolution, perhaps? Indeed, figures suggest that bike traffic is on the rise in many large urban centers, including previously bike-averse cities, such as London, New York and Los Angeles.
Alongside the enhanced cycling provisions, we’ve also noticed an increasing number of bike-centric festivals and get-togethers being arranged for those of the pedaling persuasion. Want to celebrate cycling with some like-minded pedalers? Oil your gears, pack up your tire repair kit and roll on down to one of these urban bike festivals.
Portland has an affinity for cycling. From elementary-school children to retirees, the love for two-wheel travel spans all age ranges. In fact, cycling has long been encouraged here, with the city not only building the required infrastructure (cycling lanes, paths and racks) but also implementing educational programs to promote bike safety and awareness. Hardly surprising, then, that Portland’s bike-loving populous is instrumental in the success of the city's annual three-week-long Pedalpalooza festival, held in June.
This free-spirited fest packs in hundreds of community-run events every summer. Some are fun, some are serious, and some are wonderfully strange. Activities include a Bowie-versus-Prince dance bike party, the bring-your-own-pet themed Puppy-palooza and the ever-popular World Naked Bike Ride.
A bicyclist enjoys a ride on the Tel Aviv beachfront. (Photo: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock)
Tel Aviv is well-known as Israel's bike-friendly city. It’s mostly flat, operates a much-loved Tel-O-Fun bike-sharing scheme and has a network of well-marked cycle paths. Of course, the sunny and dry weather also helps. Perhaps most telling though, is Sovev Tel Aviv, a four-day biking event.
During the course of the festival, many of Tel Aviv’s roads are cleared of car traffic, allowing cyclists to clock up miles without worrying about trucks or crowded intersections. There are four different ride options, ranging from a leisurely five-mile jaunt up to a much more ambitious 37-mile expedition. Rollerbladers can also get in on the fun with a 13-mile course. This year’s festivities, which get underway on Sept. 30, are expected to attract around 30,000 cyclists and more than 100,000 spectators. The scenery is arguably the biggest draw; there are few more pleasurable ways to admire Tel Aviv’s sweeping seafront than from the saddle.
Cycle fever has gripped London. First came “Boris Bikes,” the city’s public bike hire system, which launched in 2010. Then came English cyclist Bradley Wiggins’ inspirational Tour de France win and Olympic gold triumph in London in 2012. All the while, more cycle superhighways are being built across the English capital. It was from this cycling resurgence that RideLondon was born.
RideLondon takes place in summer and closes many of the city’s normally traffic-clogged streets to motorists. Almost 100,000 cyclists come to pedal a range of biking routes, from the family-friendly eight-mile circuit of central London’s famous sights to the more challenging Surrey 100, a 100-mile ride based on the 2012 Olympic road race route. The Surrey 100 attracts more than 25,000 cyclists, among them a host of celebrities.
Event director Hugh Brasher, who also organizes the city’s marathon, draws parallels between the two events. "Very much like the marathon, RideLondon is about inspiring people to take up cycling, and it's also about their daily health," he told Reuters.
Cycling is gaining traction in Cleveland, with Bicycling Magazine recently naming it among the top 50 bike-friendly cities in the nation. Not only does Cleveland have a nice bike path network, but it also has a bike-friendly public transport system and a host of excellent local bike shops. Then there’s its latest cycling-related triumph: the Neocycle urban bike festival, held Sept. 11-13. Neocycle is a multidisciplinary bike event, which features high-speed velodrome races, a non-competitive grand fundo with three different length options, a competitive high-speed criterium (held on a closed circuit) and a spectacular night ride that promises views of downtown Cleveland and the Lake Erie sunset. But the festival isn’t all about cycling. Even if you never managed to cycle without stabilizers, you can still enjoy live music and food truck fare at the lakefront Edgewater Park, the site of the festival’s hub.
New York’s premiere cycling event is epic. For one day (the first Sunday in May), cars are banned from many of the city’s streets, and more than 30,000 cyclists turn up to revel in the freedom of having the roads all to themselves. The 40-mile Five Boro Bike Tour encompasses all five boroughs and crosses over five bridges, before eventually winding up on Staten Island. At the festival finish line, food vendors cook up grub for the jello-legged cyclists. The event is extremely popular, and spots in the ride are hard to secure. You can either cross your fingers and hope you win the Five Boro lottery, or you can choose to sign up with a charity and raise some much-needed funds for a worthy cause.
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