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Which City Is No. 1 for Biking? REI's Cycling Town Showdown Narrows the Field Down to 4

Championship week has arrived in REI’s 2013 Cycling Town Showdown, and we want to hear from you.

The 8-city bracket tournament, REI’s wholly unscientific way to determine which U.S. city is the country’s best biking town, has been narrowed down to a fantastic four. No Cinderellas here; just urban biking heavyweights. Top seeds. Heavy hitters.

Next up: a pair of semifinal matches today and Tuesday, both likely to be hotly contested affairs. After that, we begin the final throwdown on Wednesday between the 2 finalists. (Update: We earlier reported the finals would involve 2 days of voting. Voting in the finals will occur on April 3 only.)

You and your friends are invited to weigh in: Cast your vote by naming your preferred city as a comment on REI’s Facebook page.


Semifinal rounds feature Seattle-Portland (Monday), Minneapolis-Denver (Tuesday).

Here’s how the semifinals shape up:

Seattle vs. Portland (Monday)

Portland, ranked No. 1 in Bicycling magazine’s 2012 list of America’s Most Bike-Friendly Cities, also won over REI voters in the city’s first-round match last week against another mid-major population center, Austin, Tex. Portland, reported to have more bicycles per capita than any other U.S. city, trumped 13th-ranked Austin 114-30.

Portland has a vibrant cycling culture, claiming to have 6% of commuters traveling by bike, likely making use of the city’s 181 miles of bike lanes. The town’s airport even has bicycle parking, and as voter Rod Jones pointed out, “Most places even let you use their bike racks to lock up your hula hoops. Oh, and the Flaming Lips recorded a video with naked cyclists there.”

PDX will now face off against Seattle, its neighbor to the north, which topped San Francisco in its first-round match 137-51. The 2 Pacific Northwest cities are linked by an annual 200-mile ride, the STP (Seattle-to-Portland) Classic, an event sponsored by the 14,000-member Seattle-area Cascade Bicycle Club. It’s so popular that the 2013 edition is already sold out with 10,000 participants.

Seattle is ranked No. 10 on Bicycling’s 2012 list. Both host an annual naked bike ride. Seattle has a pro football and baseball teams; Portland is home to an NBA franchise. The cities’ otherwise genteel populations snarl at one another when their Major League Soccer franchises, the Timbers and the Sounders, meet.

Seattle residents can gaze south to 14,411-foot Mount Rainier. Portlandia types look east to view 11,250-foot Mount Hood. Who’s got the better local coffee? Better microbrews? The better bike culture?

This matchup should be interesting.

Minneapolis vs. Denver (Tuesday)

Minneapolis is a past No. 1 in Bicycling’s annual poll and stands at No. 2 spot in the 2012 list. Judging by the outpouring of support from REI voters—Minneapolis simply hammered New York City in the first round by an eye-bugging score of 550-9—the guess here that MSP looms as this tournament’s favorite to win it all.

As we pointed out last week, Minneapolis offers 92 miles of on-street bike lanes and 85 more off-street and sponsors a very popular Nice Ride “green bikes” rental program, where cyclists grab a neon green loaner at one commuter hub and drop it off at another.

Voters chimed in often to support their views. Eric Svante Mellgren: “There is more bike parking than car parking at Target field where the Twins play.” Amanda Reeder: “The plows clear the greenway [a primary biking corridor] before they plow the streets after snowstorms. Hah.” William Chu: “We have that bikeshare down, amazing trails and the people aren't afraid of a little ice, snow and subzero temps.”

But Denver, No. 14 in Bicycling’s 2012 rankings, will be carrying the torch for a devoted biking community that extends the full length of Colorado’s Front Range, including Boulder (No. 3), Fort Collins (No. 11) and Colorado Springs (No. 31). In the first-round, the Mile High City topped fourth-ranked Washington, D.C. in a tight battle, 396-255.

Denver zealots love to tout the B-Cycle bikeshare program, and as voter Nikki Jackson pointed out, crummy weather does not deter riders in this part of the country, either: “My hubby rides to work every day, even during a blizzard! That's just how we roll.”

And we’d like to toss an olive branch out to the many riders in other cities who wondered why their towns were not included—Boulder, Madison, Wisc., Eugene. Ore., Tucson, Boise, Boston, Philly, Pittsburgh and a bunch of others. For this go-round we had 8 spaces and took our best guess. We salute dedicated riders and their supportive towns all across the nation.

For now, we’re down to 4. Vote with your comments. Vote with your heart. And keep pedaling.

Posted on at 8:30 AM

Tagged: Cycling and urban cycling

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