MobilityCyclingCycling: How to Get Started as a Beginner City

Cycling: How to Get Started as a Beginner City

Cornelia Forsthuber
Cornelia Forsthuber
I'm passionate about including the next generation of CityChangers into the conversation, exploring my city, and meaningful conversations. In my free time, I enjoy the other good things in life: literature, hiking, and eating my way through Vienna.

Your city has (almost) no existing infrastructure and cycling is generally not a way for people to move around? Don’t worry, we all have to start somewhere. We’ve got your next steps planned out!

Beginner cities are those with a cycling modal share of below 10 percent and a lack of dedicated cycling infrastructure. While there are endless options of what could be done, the main goal here is to make cycling safe and more respected before continuing with more advanced measures. 

While all first or next steps highly depend on your local context and on what has already been tried and done in your specific city, here’s nine steps that can help you get oriented and get started. The time you will have to invest in each step also depends on efforts and steps that have already been taken – but there is a lot that can happen over the course of 12 to 24 months!

Recommended next steps to increase cycling are: 

1. Gain Political Support

Start pushing politicians for cycling commitments – find or set up an advocacy cycling group, engage with opposition and lobby your local politicians. Finding allies is crucial to make your voice heard! Check out how other cities and cycling advocates went about it, and get inspired by their solutions.

We realise this is no easy task, so see our guides to help you get started: 

2. Hold General Cycling Campaigns

At this stage, campaign efforts should be about raising awareness and promoting cycling as an inclusive form of travel for all ages and abilities. This could include hosting cycling events, like a cycling tour or bikers’ breakfast, social media campaigns, posters and free cycling lessons.

For more detailed help, check out this page by the European Commission. Click here to find a guideline on how to develop and implement a sustainable urban mobility plan. Cycling campaigns are an important measure to take throughout your whole journey, and will be adapted to specific user groups or stakeholders at a later stage.

3. Create a Cycling Strategy

While not all cities set up a cycling strategy, a document like this will help immensely with setting up a game plan, defining steps and actions, evaluating short-, mid- and longterm goals, and communicating what you’ve planned out.

Be sure to include citizens into the planning right from the start: Find out the reasons why people are not cycling, ask what they would need to cycle, and start to create a vision – this also links to step 6, appointing a cycling officer. You will need someone coordinating the whole process.

To get started with your cycling strategy, check out these tips and tricks from C40. Explore other cities’ cycling strategies – it helps you get inspired, let’s you see what worked elsewhere, and is a good starting point to cherry-pick solutions, that you can then translate to your local context.

4. Plan and Begin Building a Cycle Route

Establishing a good infrastructure for bicycles is the be-all and end-all for beginner cities! Create bicycle lanes, and people will use them. Figure out how people can cycle around the city, where the main routes are and when to integrate or separate cyclists from road traffic. Begin to budget and learn from other cities how to allocate space to bikes.

For more detail and help, see ‘How to Implement Cycle Routes

5. Cycling Signage

This might seem like a small step, but don’t underestimate its importance and value. Place a unified cycling logo and signs around the city to direct people on bicycles and raise awareness to motorists. Both citizens and tourists benefit from cycling signage, both through raising awareness and through helping them find the most appropriate routes for cyclists. Find first thoughts on how to implement cycling signage here.

6. Appoint a Cycling Officer

As pointed out in step 4, appointing a cycling coordinator helps greatly with your long-term efforts to make your city more bike-friendly. This also helps citizens understand who they can reach out to with their questions and ideas/concerns. Establish a representative to coordinate different departments, secure funding and manage cycling infrastructure – this is important for holding governments to account on their commitments.

7. Bicycle Friendly Intersections

Intersections are often overlooked, yet critical to making people feel safe on bikes. A wide array of factors like space, speed, and traffic volumes has to be taken into consideration when deciding which kind of intersection to go for.

For all you need to know, see ‘How to make intersections bike-friendly’.

8. Traffic Calming Measures and Reduced Speeds

Alongside any cycle routes, these measures are important in making cycling safe when integrated with road traffic. Measures like these have a positive impact not only on cyclists, but also on pedestrians and various vulnerable citizen groups in general. Reducing speeds also has a direct influence on road fatalities.

The measures could include reduced speeds, one way systems and speed humps.

9. Cycle Friendly Legal Systems

Legislative changes are often needed to accommodate for cyclists – this includes allowing bicycles to ride in bus lanes, use one-way streets and setting a legal overtaking distance. Get informed about your city’s current legal regulations, and make a plan for necessary changes.


We need you to know that there is no right order on how to get started. Many times the steps intersect and the implementations of measures go hand-in-hand with campaigning. Do not compare yourself to much with how other cities did it! You’ll find the right path for your city!

To continue making your city a better city for cyclists, head over here to learn how to get started as an intermediate city.

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