As we’ve written in the past, traveling is about discovery. And too often, we do our discovering from inside a moving vehicle, which can’t always give you the authentic experience you’re looking for. Getting out of a car and exploring on foot is a great way to get to know a place and get some exercise.
And there’s more than one way to get that boots-on-the-ground experience. Specifically, cycling.
Many cities and places around the globe have embraced bike rental and bike-sharing programs; there are an estimated 300 organized bike-sharing programs worldwide. In most of them, you can purchase short-term subscriptions – for a day or a week – at bike stations that are right on the street.
Here are some tools to use to get the wheels in motion:
- The Bike-Sharing World Map. This is a phenomenal collection of all of the bike-sharing programs on Earth (or at least almost all of them). It tells you which ones are up and running, which ones will soon be up and running, and which ones are defunct. Plus, it links to all of them so you can find more info as you need it. Bike-sharing hotspots include Paris, London, Mumbai, Hangzhou, China, Mexico City and Melbourne, Australia.
- Bikely. Ok, now that you’ve got your bike-sharing subscription, where are you going to go? Put down the kickstand and log on to Bikely.com. It’s a free tool through which cyclists map and share bicycle routes that they’ve taken or like. You can upload the routes to your own GPS device. The site is quickly closing in on 200,000 different bike routes in the world. Consider it a cyclists’ guide to cycling in a new place.
- The Dynamic Connections Map. This is a little premature, because it’s only active and working in Berlin, Germany. The project asks cyclists to map the best bike routes and then figure out which routes they should take in the future, based on the recommendations of other cyclists. The website filters data such as “bike-friendliness,” how central a route is, the safety of any intersections, and how happy the cyclists feel while riding on it.
- Global Adventure Guide Tours. If you’re interested in building an entire vacation around cycling, you’re in luck (hopefully, you’re also in shape; otherwise you might want to scale back your ambition). There are tour providers that create an itinerary that will give you a great workout and a unique view of some of the most spectacular places in the world. You’ll spend four or five hours a day on your bike, then the rest of the time sightseeing or relaxing (or maybe getting a deep tissue massage).
It seems like the bike tourism trend is going to grow. It’s green, it’s fitness-oriented and, in a lot of cases, it’s just a better way to explore a new place.
Photo by Payton Chung.