Since the 1920s, the Western world has been living in the age of automation. When cars took over our streets, they didn’t just change the way we travel; they changed where and even how we live. However, the tide is changing again in the 21st century; many are gradually abandoning the automobile in favour of other forms of transportation, with biking leading the way as a popular alternative – with good reason. Not only is getting around by bike often faster than a car during rush hour commutes, it’s also an excellent boost for your health. A 130 pound person can burn between 236-472 calories an hour through light to moderate bike riding, so a commute to and from work on a bike can significantly contribute to aerobic fitness and maintenance of a health weight. All while saving money on gas (incredibly, the average amount spent on gas per year is $8,946 for a standard sedan) and taking some of stress off the environment.
Unfortunately for many people in the average U.S city, this isn’t an option. Most cities simply don’t have the infrastructure to allow for safe biking. Very few have designated bike paths, and even those that do are often side-by-side with cars making cycling much more risky than it has to be.
But there are several cities in the United States that are becoming more bike-friendly. The website Walk Score compiled a ranking of the most bike-friendly cities in America, looking at bike infrastructure (lanes, trails, etc), hills, destinations, and road connectivity to determine the best cities for bikes. They rank the cities from 0-100, with the higher rankings being the best for bikers. While none of the cities on this list were ranked between 90-100 (daily errands can be accomplished on a bike), some were ranked as high as 70-89 which means that biking is convenient for most trips. Everything else fell between 50-69 meaning that the cities contain some bike infrastructure but is by no means extensive. In those cities, a bike wouldn’t provide a reasonable alternative for a car. American cities still have a long way to go, but thankfully there are several cities trying to become more bike-friendly over the next few decades. If you’re a keen American biker looking to ditch the car once and for all, you better hope you live in one of these 10 cities.
10. Chicago, IL – Bike Score: 61.5
Currently, Chicago has more than 200 miles of on-street, protected, buffered and shared bike lanes in addition to the many miles of off-street paths. Bicyclist magazine credits Chicago’s bike-friendly streets to Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein. Klein is an avid cyclist himself, and has been an ally to transit and cycling enthusiasts in the city. And while Chicago currently ranks pretty high right now, it’s only going to get better from here on out. The Streets for ‘Cycling 2020’ plan calls for 100 miles of protected bike lanes to be installed over the next few years. Currently, Kinzie street has a protected bike lane and cyclists are said to account for a large amount of rush hour traffic. There are also bicycling events such as the Bike the Drive and the recently approved bike-sharing program to thank for making this city attractive to cyclists.
9. New York, NY – Bike Score: 62.3
Could New York City be as bike-friendly as cycle-friendly pioneers like Amsterdam? It isn’t right now, but perhaps eventually. New plans call for 1,800 bike-lane miles in NYC by 2030. But even pending this new infrastructure, New York is already considered a top cycling city. NYC has more cyclists than any other American city, and the city does what it can to protect them by offering several protected bike paths. There are three different types of bike lanes within the city, Class I, Class II, and Class III. Class I lanes are the safest and are physically separated from vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Class II lanes are simply marked with paint and signage and lie between a parking lane and a traffic lane. Class III lanes share the road with vehicles and are marked only by signage. Most cycling fall into a Class II or III, but there are Class I bike lanes that connect most neighborhoods.
8. Tucson, AZ – Bike Score: 64.1
Tucson may not be as big as New York or Chicago, but it takes cycling very seriously. In fact, Tucson boasts the largest number of bike lanes in the nation (620) and it has a bike-boulevard plan which included 170 miles. Not only is the city incredibly bike friendly, but the weather and scenery draw bikers from all over the country. The mountains, the desert, and the pine forests are all available for you to experience by bike. And then there’s Cyclovia where the streets are closed off for the cars and open only for those who want to bike, walk, or skate them. Cyclovia has been credited with encouraging people to ditch their cars in favor of the bike for their daily commute. And in a city as bike-friendly as Tucson, it really is a win-win for everyone.
7. Seattle, WA – Bike Score: 64.1
Since implementing the Bicycle Master Plan (BMP) in 2007, Seattle has done a lot to improve the current bicycle network within the city. The city now boasts 129 miles of on-street bicycle facilities such as bike lanes, 9 miles of multi-use trail improvements, and 2,230 new bike parking spaces. In 2012, SDOT decided to update the BMP and do more to make biking safer in the city. The new plan includes extensions of bike paths and greenways, including several protected bike paths that keep bikers away from the roads and parked cars.
6. Washington D.C – Bike Score 65.3
In Washington D.C., Bike ridership jumped 80 percent from 2007 to 2010. A large part of this is because the city has implemented several programs that encourage cycling around the city. It opened the country’s first automated bike-share system, which wouldn’t be useful if the city wasn’t bike-friendly, so they also built separated bike lanes downtown which allow people to easily bike around the city, especially in the busiest parts of downtown. D.C has also installed more than 1,600 bike racks, proving that the nation’s capitol is striving to become a city where folks have many options when it comes to getting around (the city ranks high on public transport and walkability too).
5. Boston, MA – Bike Score: 67.8
Boston often appears on lists ranking it as having some of the best transit and walkability, so it should come as no surprise that the city is becoming incredibly bike-friendly too. Like several others on the list, Boston has a Bike Network Plan that’s all about improving the current cycling infrastructure within the city. The plan identifies a comprehensive network of bike routes throughout the city, and aims to reach 356 miles of bike paths within the next 30 years. For those who don’t already own a bike, there’s the New Balance Hubway Bike-Share System which allows people to rent bikes near their homes or jobs in order to make their commute a little bit greener.
4. Philadelphia, PA – Bike Score: 68.4
The City of Brotherly Love is known for its fantastic public transport network, and now they’re also ranked as one of the best cities for bikers too. Philly has well over 200 miles of bike lanes, a few of which are protected lanes that keep bikers away from traffic and parked cars. The bike lane network expansion has made it easier and safer for cyclists to get around the city, and there is a planned expansion that will make it even easier for bikers to come into Center City. On top of that, Philly has installed over 1,000 bike racks, making it easier than ever before to cycle the city.
3. Denver, CO – Bike Score – 69.5
Denver is an outdoorsman’s dream. This mile-high city takes both biking and hiking very seriously, so it should come as no surprise that there are 80 miles of multi-use trails, 96 miles of bike lanes, 41 miles of Sharrows, and 400 miles of signed bike routes. Not only is the city bike-friendly, the Denver Zoo is the first zoo in the country to be recognized as a Silver-Level Bicycle Friendly Business, an award given by the League of American Bicyclists. For those who don’t own their own bikes, there is a bike sharing program known as Denver B-Cycle that allows you to take unlimited rides with the first 30 minutes of each ride being free of charge, though there is a modest membership fee.
2. San Francisco, CA – Bike Score: 70.0
San Francisco is another city known for making it easy to ditch the car and this city by the Bay is one that takes biking very seriously. In fact, there’s been an unprecedented 96% increase in S.F. cyclists since 2006. The city has worked hard to encourage people to get on their bikes. Since 2010, San Francisco has installed 20 new bike-lane miles, 25 bike-parking corrals, and traffic signals that give cyclists the right-of-way. Like many on this list, S.F has a bike share program with the goal of opening up cycling to everyone. The program’s goal is to launch an even larger program with about 3,000 bikes with a proposed expansion into the full Bay Area eventually. Currently, they have 350 bikes in a few key locations, making it easier for both residents and tourists alike to rent a bike for the afternoon.
1. Portland, OR – Bike Score: 70.3
Many U.S cities don’t even hold a candle to European cities when it comes to being bike-friendly. But that isn’t the case for Portland. In fact, Portland is not only considered one of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation, it’s one of the best in the world. While many American cities have been developing bike plans over the last couple of decades, Portland has been ‘on it’ since the 1970s. The city is still working hard to make cycling safe and easy within their city, and to this day they’re improving bike lanes, reducing speed limits on greenways, and completing new bike lanes ensuring that Portland will likely stay the number one biking city in the United States for many years to come.