If you like to ride bikes, then you may be interested to hear how your community compares in terms of bikeability with others across the nation. The PeopleForBikes 2019 list of the most bikeable cities in the United States published this week.
This year’s ratings reflect more engagement with cities across the country, which resulted in more information and a better analysis, according to PeopleForBikes.
Data and Methodology
To score cities across the country on their bikeability, PeopleForBikes scoured their own troves of data acquired through surveys, the Bicycle Network Analysis and submitted “snapshots” of cities’ future plans for bicycling. The group then overlapped that information with data from the U.S. Census, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and Sports Marketing Surveys for bicycle participation.
Out of the data, PeopleForBikes scored cities around five questions:
- How many people ride bikes?
- How safe is it to ride a bike?
- How easy is it for people to get around on a bike?
- How fast is the network of bike trails and routes growing and expanding?
- How effective is the bike network to access all neighborhoods in the community?
“As we were developing the city ratings, we spent a great deal of time thinking critically around what does a good community for bicycling look like?” said Boldry. “We wanted it to be data-driven and empirical.”
More than 47,000 cities and towns are in the PeopleForBikes database, said Boldry. However, they only rated cities and towns with data in at least three categories. This year, ratings were published for 510 cities and towns. This is the second year that PeopleForBikes has published the city ratings, and Boldry said that a big push for the near future is to get more participation from cities to submit data and conduct surveys, so the results will become more robust. All of the raw data is available on the group’s website and is open-sourced.
“We know bicycling can change lives. We see it all the time. We want that to be equally available to everyone in the U.S. We want to get more people on bikes,” said Boldry. “The goal here is super simple. ... All of the tools that we’re providing are fundamentally motivated to help cities to build better places for people to ride.”
The top-rated cities scored well across all five categories, said Boldry. A network of bike infrastructure is built to separate bikes from cars and improve safety for cyclists. There’s also a cultural aspect that encourages people from all demographics to get on their bikes and ride. Still, on a scale from 1 to 5, the highest ranking city, Boulder, received a 3.7—a solid C grade. “The city ratings was intentionally developed to be a global scale,” said Boldry, noting that Boulder’s bicycle network scored 62 out of 100 points. They also measured Copenhagen’s network, in Denmark, which scored 82 points. “We want to celebrate success. And we also want to recognize we have lots of opportunity to make much better bike riding experiences.”
The 10 Most Bikeable Cities
1. Boulder, Colorado
Of course, Boulder took the top spot. The Colorado college town is basically a realistic version of Utopia—and as a result, is the subject of many tropes about yoga, health food stores, alternative medicine, breweries, college students, and now bicycling. But this shouldn’t take away from the city’s true effort to get more people on bikes. With a population exceeding 107,000, Boulder boasts more than 300 miles of designated bike lanes that connect riders to even more mileage on roads and dirt trails. For those without a bike, some 300 cruisers are available to rent for $8 for 24 hours at 47 kiosks around town. The best bike city in the United States even has a vending machine for cyclists to buy accessories at any hour of the day.
2. Fort Collins, Colorado
Fort Collins, Colorado, was named the most bike-friendly city by PeopleForBikes in 2018, and though it’s now been pushed out of its front-runner slot, the town is still a bike mecca. Thanks in large part to a local, grassroots advocacy group called Bike Fort Collins, the town has been steadily checking off the boxes on a long list of requisites for any bike-friendly town, including the recent push to launch a citywide bike share program. And their work has been successful. Just look to the 6,000 people the city expects to participate in its 32nd Annual Bike to Work Day, on June 26.
3. Eugene, Oregon
Riding a bike through Oregon’s country roads or shady dirt trails is heavenly, so it’s no wonder Eugene’s bike culture has grown strong enough to land the city in the third spot on this list. The Greater Eugene Area Riders, a 26-year-old bike advocacy nonprofit, hosts regular group rides and clinics. The town’s residents and leaders are also pushing for programs that promote cyclists’ safety. The Safe Routes to Schools program, for example, encourages students to ride a bike to class and in March, the city manager signed an action plan for Vision Zero, which aims to eliminate deaths and serious injuries within Eugene’s transportation network. PeopleForBikes gave Eugene 3.8 out of five points for safety, which hits the upper tier of how well cities scored.
4. Manhattan, New York
Yes, the city streets of NYC are one of the best-rated places to ride a bike in the United States. The city’s Department of Transportation has invested greatly in biking. In the last five years, the city has built 330 miles worth of on-street bike routes, including 82 miles of bike lanes, according to a report published by the DOT. And almost 1.6 million New Yorkers ride bikes. “There have never been more people biking in New York City,” the report says.
5. Arlington, Virginia
Situated on the banks of the Potomac River, Arlington is a city with a robust human-powered transit program led by Bike Arlington. And thanks to the widespread installation of automated counters to keep track of bicyclists and pedestrians, this town already knows how to play the data game. The numbers are tall. most of the bike trails in the city see 500,000 bike trips a year. Arlington cyclists ride all year long, even in the winter—though ice and snow are strong deterrents. Data visualizations for one trail in particular reveal that peak bicycle traffic occurs during rush hour; on the weekends, bike traffic is more consistent in the middle of the day. Tuesdays and Wednesdays seem to be the days most people are motivated to pedal to work.
6. Lawrence, Kansas
With a growing network of multiuse bike paths and bike-friendly streets, as well as infrastructure to support cyclists, it’s clear this college town is committed to cycling. PeopleForBikes gave Lawrence high marks for effort in the safety and growth categories, but the town still has some work to do to get more people on bikes. One suggestion the city ratings had for Lawrence: Launch a bike-share program.
7. Brooklyn, New York
According to The New York Times, on one of Brooklyn’s busiest streets, bikes outnumber cars. This year, PeopleForBikes analyzed the five New York boroughs separately. Brooklyn may come in second to Manhattan, but this borough has more bike paths than any of the others. Brooklyn also claims to be home to America’s original bike path. Opened on June 15, 1894, the Ocean Parkway Bike Path travels through the center of the borough, from Coney Island to Prospect Park.
8. Portland, Oregon
I once saw a cyclist navigating Portland’s southeast district during a heavy snowstorm, wearing a vintage sweater, goggles and a ball cap. It was a scene that reflected the gung-ho spirit of Portland’s cyclists. But like any good laugh, there’s truth behind it. In 2017, 6.3 percent of the city’s residents—more than 22,000 people—commuted to work by bike. The city’s bike network clocks 385 miles. And the city’s bike infrastructure was valued at $60 million.
9. Madison, Wisconsin
Madison, a city that touts it has more bikes than cars. The city has seen a proliferation of bike infrastructure—boulevards, lanes, parking, lighting, racks, signals and more. Their goal is nothing short of making bicycling “an integral part of daily life.” The investment has been worth it. A report from the Wisconsin Bike Fed attributes $1.5 billion in the economy to bicycling.
10. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis has long reigned as a leader of bike culture in the Midwest. Thanks to a strong community of bike advocates, the city has a well-established network of bike routes and infrastructure. But its desire to become a city where cyclists and pedestrians are welcome and comfortable continues to push onward. The city is currently drafting a new transportation plan to address concerns about climate, safety, and equity, among other goals, and bike advocates are at work to make sure pedestrians and cyclists are top of mind.
To see the complete list, and find how your city ranked, go to PeopleForBikes.org.
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