5 best biking cities in Asia
“I'd rather be sitting inside a BMW and crying, than sitting on a bicycle and smiling,” a gold-digger on Chinese reality TV once famously said.
But plenty of people disagree, and they're making these the most bike-friendly cities in Asia.
One thing that stands out to a first-time visitor to Kyoto is how everyone seems to commute by bicycle. Every morning, heavily made-up girls in miniskirts and salarymen whiz through the city’s narrow streets, some carrying passengers.
It’s easy to see why cycling is popular here. Kyoto is mostly flat and traffic is orderly. Plenty of alleyways make for quick shortcuts. The city’s grid pattern makes it’s hard to get lost. Roads slope slightly upward as you head north, but the incline is manageable.
Kyoto Cycling Tour Project offers tour packages and cycling information for tourists.
Asia's first city of cycling is renowned these days for its growing automobile traffic -- but the infrastructure for cyclists here is still the best in Asia.
Bike lanes cover nearly every inch of the city. What's more, small repair shops can be found on nearly every street, and shops selling cheap, secondhand bikes are legion.
For the timid, safety can be a concern. Helmets are nonexistent and Beijing's breakneck biker veterans often exhibit an alarming disregard for traffic regulations.
Those wanting to ease into the flow might first wheel through Beijing's hutongs to get a feel for the old road.
The labyrinth-like hutongs near Yonghegong are a great place to start. Once inside the maze, you’ll deal with less traffic, giving you plenty of time to see the sites -- locals hanging laundry among bird cages, elderly women peddling vegetables, men playing chess on corners.
Beijing-based travel agency The China Guide offers hutong bike tours.
"Kaohsiung is the most bike-friendly city in Taiwan." That's been one of the city government’s favorite lines for the past two years. And it's actually true.
Kaohsiung has a growing network of bike lanes that currently adds up to 150 kilometers -- not bad in a nation known for scooters and busy streets. Kaohsiung is also the first city in Taiwan to offer self-serviced bike rental kiosks to the public.
The service, known as C-bike, is available at 50 rental stations around the city. Prices start at NT$30 for the first half hour; riders pay NT$15 more for subsequent half-hours. The C-bike official website has detailed maps of the city’s cycling routes and rental details.
If you’re planning a two-to-four day trip from Kaohsiung, we suggest that you ride out toward Taitung City via the scenic South Cross-Island Highway.
As anyone who has biked there will tell you, the island of Jeju is the best place in South Korea to take a ride. The island is surrounded by smooth, continuous cycle tracks that run for 182 kilometers, and has gorgeous natural scenery. Traffic is light in Jeju, and the mild coastal climate makes cycling a breeze.
Flanked by bike lanes on both sides, Highway 12 circumnavigates the island. A round-island trip will take three to five days to complete. Bike rentals can be found near the bus terminal at Jeju City and Yongduam Rock.
Cars may still be most Singaporean’s ride of choice -- this is the home of the legendary F1 night race, after all -- but there’s no denying the city’s biking culture is growing.
For the past year, Singapore's government has been actively promoting cycling as a mode of transport, not simply a leisure activity. To back that up, it’s been building a network of bike lanes on the city’s main roads that is expanding weekly.
Dedicated cycling paths will be in place in seven towns in Singapore by 2014. For the time being, we like the ones near parks like East Coast and Bishan Park.