Many cyclists on bridge
Back to overview

The importance of cycling infrastructure for cities: How cycle paths and infrastructure can change cities

8 May 2024

In recent years, the importance of cycling infrastructure in cities worldwide has increased significantly. In response to the challenges of climate change, traffic congestion and general quality of life, more and more cities are turning to cycle paths and infrastructure to create a sustainable and liveable environment. 

The role of cycling infrastructure for liveable cities

Cycling infrastructure is not just about transportation, it touches on various aspects of urban life. Here are some points that show why bike lanes and infrastructure are so crucial to the quality of life in cities:

Health and well-being: Promoting cycling contributes to the physical health of citizens*. The daily use of bicycles as a means of transportation can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and other health problems. In addition, regular exercise has a positive effect on mental well-being and can reduce stress.

Environmentally friendly: Transportation is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in urban areas. By encouraging more people to cycle, CO2 emissions are reduced and air quality is improved. This helps to make cities more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Traffic relief: Bicycles take up less space than cars and can therefore help to relieve traffic congestion in busy urban areas. This leads to a smoother flow of traffic, less congestion and shorter commuting times for all road users.

Successful cycle path projects and their impact

Copenhagen, Denmark:

Copenhagen is considered a pioneer when it comes to cycling infrastructure. The city has created an extensive network of cycle paths and bridges, enabling citizens to cycle safely and comfortably. These measures have resulted in more than half of Copenhagen's residents cycling to work or school every day. The city has not only reduced traffic, but also improved the quality of life and boosted the economy by promoting cycling as an environmentally friendly and efficient method of transportation.

Amsterdam, Netherlands:

Amsterdam is known worldwide for its bicycle friendliness. The city has created a well-developed network of cycle paths and parking facilities, enabling residents to use bicycles as their main mode of transportation. As a result, Amsterdam has not only reduced traffic and improved air quality, but also increased the city's attractiveness for residents and tourists.

Portland, USA:

Portland, Oregon, has become a bicycling city in recent years. The city has made extensive investments in bicycle infrastructure, including the creation of separate bicycle lanes, bicycle streets and bicycle parking lots. These measures have led to more and more people in Portland using bicycles as a means of transportation, which in turn has led to a reduction in traffic and an increase in quality of life.

Cycle path marked
Urban cyclist on racing bike

An example of failed bicycle infrastructure

Beijing, China:

In recent decades, Beijing has made enormous efforts to reduce traffic and air pollution in the city. One measure has been the promotion of cycling through the construction of bike lanes and the introduction of bike rental systems. Although the intention to promote cycling as an environmentally friendly and healthy method of transportation is commendable, the example of Beijing shows that inadequate planning and implementation of cycling infrastructure can lead to undesirable consequences. 

Overcrowding and insecurity: Beijing's bicycle lanes quickly became overcrowded and confusing as they could not keep up with the rapid growth of bicycle users. This led to chaotic traffic situations and increased accident risks for cyclists and pedestrians.

Air pollution and health problems: Despite the promotion of cycling, air pollution remained a serious problem in Beijing. The high number of vehicles continued to contribute to air pollution, resulting in health problems and poor quality of life for residents.

Economic impact: The excessive promotion of cycling in Beijing also had a negative economic impact. Increased traffic congestion and uncertainty on bike lanes caused many people to switch to alternative modes of transportation such as cars, leading to an increase in car use and further traffic problems.

Air pollution in Beijing

An exceptional example of cycling infrastructure

Eindhoven, Netherlands:

The city of Eindhoven has combined part of its cycle path network with a unique artistic idea: a luminous cycle path inspired by the famous painting "Starry Night" by Vincent van Gogh. The cycle path is equipped with thousands of glowing stones that light up in the dark and recreate the famous painting. This spectacular cycle path, officially known as the 'Van Gogh Cycle Path', was created to draw people's attention to the importance of cycling as an environmentally friendly mode of transportation while celebrating the beauty of art.

Eindhoven's Van Gogh Cycle Route is an example of how cycling infrastructure can not only be functional, but also create artistic, cultural and touristic value. It shows that even in the world of transportation planning, there is room for extraordinary and crazy ideas that can improve the quality of life in cities in unexpected ways. The impact of this extraordinary cycle path is impressive:

Tourist attraction: The Van Gogh Cycle Route has developed into a major tourist attraction that draws visitors from all over the world. The combination of art and cycling infrastructure makes the cycle route a unique experience that can only be found in Eindhoven.

Promoting cycle tourism: The cycle route has also helped to boost cycle tourism in the region. People come not only to see the luminous art installation, but also to explore the surroundings by bike and enjoy the beauty of the Dutch countryside.

Innovative solutions: The Van Gogh Cycle Route shows how cycling infrastructure can be combined with creative ideas and innovative technologies to not only solve practical problems, but also create an inspiring and aesthetically pleasing environment.

Van Gogh cycle path in Eindhoven


The importance of cycling infrastructure for cities cannot be overemphasized. By creating safe and pleasant cycling routes and infrastructure, cities can improve their quality of life, protect the environment and boost the economy. The examples of successful cycle lane projects show that investment in cycling infrastructure can have a long-term positive impact on cities and their residents. It is therefore crucial that cities around the world continue to invest in cycling infrastructure and promote cycling as a sustainable and healthy mode of transportation.

Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that the creation of cycling infrastructure is not optimal in all situations and that its effectiveness depends on how well it is adapted to local conditions. There are cases where inadequate planning or unfavorable conditions do not have the desired, positive outcome. Therefore, careful consideration of local needs and holistic transportation planning is essential to achieve the best possible outcomes for the city and its residents.