Top 10 Most Bike-Friendly Cities
Note from Bikabout's founder, Megan Ramey:
At first glance at this list, I find my head nodding in agreement with most of the choices. It doesn't hurt that 9 of the 10 are Bikabout cities and Minneapolis and Portland are vying for the top 2 spots. However, a problem I've had with these lists is that they don't take stress/comfort level, network connectivity or what we call the "heart rate test" into consideration (see also, Bicycling Magazine). Walkscore and Bikescore are a wonderful measure of an address' proximity to basic life amenities and we recommend the site as a 1st threshold test for house buying. But, if you're interested in diving into ratings with a lot of teeth behind it, I recommend People for Bikes City Ratings. What their 5 measurement categories (ridership, network, safety, acceleration, reach) boil down to is this: how likely are you to let your 8 year old bike to school by herself?
In a study done by Redfin company Walk Score, Minneapolis, Portland, and Chicago have been named 2018’s most bike-friendly cities. These three cities have invested more money into improving their bike infrastructure, so it comes as no surprise that both Portland and Chicago have improved their position on the list since 2015 while Minneapolis remains in the front of the pack. The updated rankings come now that Bike Score has added 1,831 new cities and over 10,000 new neighborhoods to the mix.
A city’s bike score is calculated using a few different factors, namely the amount of bike infrastructure (bike lanes, trails, etc.), hilliness, amount of destinations that can easily be reached by bike, road connectivity, and the number of bike commuters in that city. A city’s bike infrastructure is measured using OpenStreetMap, its hilliness by utilizing the United States Geological Survey’s National Elevation Dataset, and the number of destinations and connectivity are both calculated using a modified version of Walk Score.
Here are the 10 most bikeable cities in the United States:
With a bike score of 81.9, Minneapolis has managed to hold onto their title of the most bike-friendly city in the country. The City of Lakes owes this honor due in no small part to their staggering amount of biking infrastructure, which includes the Midtown Greenway, a bicycle highway of sorts that is used by an average of 4,100 bicyclists a day. The city also has some of the most dedicated bikers around, with about 20 percent of the community continuing to ride through even the worst of the city’s notoriously harsh winters. Having built 75 additional miles’ worth of bike lanes and trails in the past six years and invested more than $750,000 in infrastructure in 2015 alone, it’s unlikely that we’ll see Minneapolis leave the top two any time soon.
2. Portland, OR
With Portland right on Minneapolis’s heels, however, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the City of Roses overtake Minneapolis soon. Very soon, in fact, given that their score has risen by 9.2 since 2015 to give them a new bike score of 81.2, less than a full point away from claiming top honors. Already perhaps the most walking, biking, and public transit friendly city on the West Coast (combined, that is), Rip City owes this surge in bikeability thanks to some smart investments by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), who managed to build their entire bike infrastructure for less than what it costs to build a single mile of highway. Portland can also thank their near total lack of hills, a staggering amount of breweries and restaurants, and extremely high amount of bike commuters for their very close second-place ranking.
3. Chicago, IL
Coming in at a distant third, Chicago has nonetheless risen dramatically from their sixth-place ranking in 2015. This rise in bike score is due to a serious investment in their infrastructure. Since 2011, Chicago has added over 112 miles of additional bikeways, to give the city a grand total of 249 miles today. The Windy City has also added over 13,000 bike racks and parking areas. So what has been the return on this investment? Since 2005, bicycling in Chicago has risen by 143 percent. With a goal of extending the bike network to a total of 645 miles by 2020, expect that number to continue to grow.
4. Denver, CO
The Mile High City is the only city on the list that hasn’t moved a single point in either direction since 2015. Why? Because while the city may be trying to get 15 percent of Denverites commuting by bike by 2020 as part of their Denver Moves initiative, their infrastructure has stayed largely the same. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Denver currently has about 100 miles of trails and 130 miles of bike lanes.
5. San Francisco, CA
Having held the number two spot in 2015, San Francisco’s bike score has dropped by a dramatic 4.4 in the three years since. While bike riding itself increased by 10 percent in 2016 alone, the City by the Bay has stumbled a bit in upgrading and maintaining its infrastructure. One bright spot for San Francisco is the city’s bike share system, Ford GoBike, which led to a 10 percent increase in bikes counted on bike routes thanks to the service’s fleet of 411,000 bikes.
6. Seattle, WA
The second most dramatic rise in score since the 2015 report, the Emerald City has improved its bike score by seven points, rising from the 13th position that year. As one of the fastest growing cities in the country, Seattle has invested heavily in bicycles to accommodate the extra traffic. By 2033, the city plans to have 100 miles of protected lanes and 250 miles of neighborhood greenways.
7. Boston, MA
Slipping two spots since 2015, Boston has had to deal with issues such as road congestion, poor infrastructure, and some negative bicyclist-driver interactions in the city’s quest to quadruple its amount of bike commuters. Even though Beantown already has 100 miles of bike lanes in place, the city has only built an additional 6 miles since 2008. Given that they are another one of the country’s fastest-growing cities and currently deal with the seventh highest amount of congestion, Boston should look to invest more in modes of transportation with fewer than four wheels.
8. New York, NY
Already the most walkable major city in the nation, New York is looking to become one of the most bikeable too. Despite some increasing backlash over the growing amount of bike lanes, the Big Apple will be adding just over 18 miles of bike lanes to their current 23, with an additional 50 being added every year thereafter. This is great news for the city’s 90,000 daily bicycle commuters.
Falling just over two and a half points since 2015, Washington D.C. is looking to turn it around. The nation’s capital has a network of 100 miles of bike lanes and trails and is looking to put them to use so as to completely eliminate all traffic-related bike and pedestrian fatalities by 2024. Washington has also begun teaching every second-grader how to ride a bike in all D.C. public schools.
10. Sacramento, CA
Also falling two spots in the past three years, Sacramento may have a good network of shared-use trails but the city still does not have a single protected lane. In fact, the city’s first 0.8-mile bike lane isn’t even scheduled to be completed until 2020. Don’t be surprised to see Sactown drop out of the top 10 sometime soon.