The 10 Best Cities for Cyclists

It's no secret that cycling can be a great source of exercise, but that's easier said than done in many cities.

It’s no secret that cycling can be a great source of exercise, but that’s easier said than done in many cities.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking each year puts together a report card ranking US cities and states based on their bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. The report provides a snapshot into city planning and lifestyle trends.

The alliance hopes to encourage more people to bike and walk as a primary means of transportation. They’ve got some work to do. Only about 1% of trips in the US are conducted on 2 wheels, compared to 10.4% on foot and 86.4% in a car. Less than 1% (0.6%) of commuters get to work on a bicycle each day.

That low number could be due to a number of factors, including infrastructure, weather, and safety. About 15% of traffic fatalities each year involve cyclists or pedestrians, and the federal government spends only about 2.1% of its transportation budget on bicycle and pedestrian projects.

However, many cities are working to improve their bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, according to the report. What follows is a list of the cities that are out-performing their peers.

The list ranks the Top 10 cities based on bicycle infrastructure per square mile. It includes 3 types of bike lanes: On-street lanes, mutli-use pathways, and signed bicycle routes. The report ranked the 52 largest cities in the US. All data are from the alliance’s report, unless otherwise noted.

On-street bicycle lane miles: 230

Bicycle lane miles per square mile: 3.8

The nation’s capital is known for gridlock, but the gridlock need not extend to the streets. That is, as long as you’re willing to commute on 2 wheels. The city has a broad mix of on-street bicycle lanes, multi-use pathways and dedicated bicycle routes. Washington is also slated to add another 125 miles of bike routes in the coming 10 years. About 2.9% of the city’s residents bike to work each day, though that pales in comparison to the 11.8% who walk to work.

On-street bicycle lane miles: 184

Bicycle lane miles per square mile: 3.8

The largest share of Boston’s bike lanes are on-street lanes (80 miles), although it scores well in part because it also has a relatively high number of multi-use paths and signed bicycle lanes. However, the city is planning a major expansion — adding 332 more miles of bicycle facilities in the next 8 years, according to the report. The city has a relatively high bike-to-work rate of 1.7% and has the lowest rate of cyclist/pedestrian fatality rates of any large city in the survey.

Total miles of bicycle facilities: 209

Bicycle lane miles per square mile: 3.9

Warm weather is not a pre-requisite for bicycle infrastructure. The western half of the Twin Cities has a large amount of on-street bike lanes and multi-use lanes, though it has a mere 4 miles of signed bike routes, one of the lowest rates in the survey. City officials are planning another 275 miles of bike routes over the next 30 years. The city has the second-highest bike-to-work rate, at 3.6%, behind only Portland, OR.

Total miles of bicycle facilities: 327

Bicycle lane miles per square mile: 3.9

Seattle residents enjoy 150 miles of signed bike routes, in addition to 129 miles of on-street lanes and 48 miles of multi-use paths. The city has a goal of adding 523 more miles of bicycle infrastructure, though no timetable has been set to complete that goal, according to the study. The city comes in just behind Minneapolis in bicycle commuters, with 3.4% of residents getting to work on 2 wheels. That rate could be due in part to the city’s mild temperatures. The high temperature cracks 90 degrees just 3 days per year, on average.

Total miles of bicycle facilities: 780

Bicycle lane miles per square mile: 4.1

About 1.4% of Albuquerque’s residents bike to work each day. They can do so using 400 miles of on-street bike lanes, 200 miles of multi-use paths, and 180 miles of signed bike routes. The city plans to add another 400 miles of bicycle infrastructure in the next 8 years. Albuquerque ranks 10th in the nation in per-capita spending on bicycle and pedestrian projects. However, the city’s safety record could use some work. It scored 33rd out of 52 cities for fatality rates among cyclists and pedestrians.

Total miles of bicycle facilities: 573

Bicycle lane miles per square mile: 4.2

About 1.8% of Mesa’s residents get to work on a bicycle each year. City officials are hoping to boost that number by adding another 216 miles of bike infrastructure over the next decade. The city already has 360 miles of on-street bike lanes, 53 miles of multi-use paths, and 160 miles of signed bicycle routes. In total, more than half (52.9%) of the city’s residents meet minimum weekly aerobic exercise guidelines, according to the survey.

Image via Flickr user David Crummey/Creative Commons

Total miles of bicycle facilities: 575

Bicycle lane miles per square mile: 4.3

The City of Brotherly Love has opened its arms to cyclists. The city has 426 miles of on-street bike lanes and 104 miles of multi-use paths. City officials plan another 400 miles of bike infrastructure in the next 10 years. It is not, however, the safest place for cyclists. The city has an annual cyclist fatality rate of 2.3 fatalities per 10,000 cyclists, making it the tenth-deadliest city for cyclists, according to the report.

Total miles of bicycle facilities: 226

Bicycle lane miles per square mile: 4.5

Long Beach doesn’t have high scores in terms of total number of miles, but the city’s image improves when one considers its size — fewer than half a million people and only about 50 square miles in total (about one-third the area of Philadelphia). Add to that a significant stock of multi-use paths and signed routes and one can see why 1.2% of its residents bike to work each day. What’s more, the city is planning another 300 miles of bike routes in the next 20 years.

Image via Flickr user Eric Fredericks/Creative Commons

Total miles of bicycle facilities: 1,376

Bicycle lane miles per square mile: 4.6

Texas’ capital is another city that does not have a particularly impressive number of on-street bike lanes (192) — but the city more than makes up for it with 983 miles of signed, dedicated bike routes. The city also has plans for another 1,100 miles of bicycle routes in the next 8 years, one of the largest planned expansions in the US. The city is also planning to add 3,500 miles of pedestrian infrastructure. Austin has a bike-to-work rate of 1.3%.

Total miles of bicycle facilities: 367

Bicycle lane miles per square mile: 7.8

San Francisco may be known for streetcars, but its bicycle infrastructure is also worth writing home about. The city has the highest rate of bicycle infrastructure based on its area. The city earns the award with 120 miles of on-street lanes, 31 miles of multi-use paths, and 216 miles of signed bike routes all packed into less than 47 square miles of land. About 3.3% of the city’s residents bike to work, though the number could be higher on good-weather days. A 2008 poll found 11% of San Franciscans said weather kept them from biking to work.