The Copenhagenize index praised Sweden's third-biggest city for “reestablishing the bicycle on the urban landscape”, while criticizing its two bigger rivals, Stockholm and Gothenburg, for not pushing themselves far enough in terms of innovation or political will.
The annual index, by influential urban consulting firm Copenhagenize, pointed to the southern Swedish city's focus on investment in infrastructure, behavioural campaigns and the opening of a large bicycle parking facility at the train station two years ago.
“Malmö has worked to improve infrastructure for many years now and it has led to good results,” Christian Fasth, chairman of the regional Malmö branch of cycling campaign group Cykelfrämjandet, told The Local on Wednesday.
“The city also has natural provisions for being a good cycling city: it is fairly round so it is not so far to get from one place to the other, and it is flat, so it's not so strenuous to get around. There aren't any mountains you have to pedal up,” he added.
Malmö has previously said it plans to invest in new cycle lanes, signage and install more bike tyre pumps in the city in 2015. And although the city climbed to number six from ninth spot in last year's ranking, the Copenhagenize index warned that it must continue to push forward to keep its place in the coming years.
“Much of the cycle lane network is from the 1970s and it's spread out, so there are quite a lot of gaps. In central Malmö there is a lot of both bike and motor traffic, but not very many cycle lanes. That's something that could be improved,” said Fasth.
He added that campaigns to convince people not to take the car just out of habit, in combination with investment in improving infrastructure to make it easier to get around on a bicycle, is key to success.
“And that the city 'thinks' bicycle. That it prioritizes it, which means for example that in winter you plough cycle paths before you plough roads,” he said.
Malmö would do well to look across the bridge to Copenhagen for inspiration on how to boost its reputation as a cycling city, Copenhagenize also argues. Its Danish neighbour claimed the top spot in the ranking for its infrastructure and residents' love for their bikes.
READ MORE: Copenhagen best city in world for cycling
Copenhageners used a bicycle for 45 percent of their travels in 2014, compared to 36 percent in 2012. The consulting firm, which advises cities worldwide on bike-friendly urban design, said that such a steep increase had “never happened anywhere. Seriously.”
Europe dominated the rankings although Buenos Aires, Argentina and the US city of Minneapolis, Minnesota made their debuts in the index.
The top 10 cities in the 2015 Copenhagenize Index were:
1. Copenhagen, Denmark
2. Amsterdam, Netherlands
3. Utrecht, Netherlands
4. Strasbourg, France
5. Eindhoven, Netherlands
6. Malmö, Sweden
7. Nantes, France
8. Bordeaux, France
9. Antwerp, Belgium
10. Seville, Spain
For more on the index, click on the image below