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A New Way to Rank America’s Best Cities for Bicycling

PeopleforBikes Top 10 biking cities contain some surprises. Map: PeopleforBikes

A new ranking of America's top cities for bicycling, courtesy of the bike industry-funded advocacy organization PeopleForBikes, has a slightly different take on the usual suspects.

Fort Collins, Colorado, gets the top spot in the new ranking, while Portland scored the highest among large cities. No surprises there.

But Tucson and San Diego landed in the top five among large cities, ranking ahead of Minneapolis, Seattle, and San Francisco, which is a bit of a curveball.

And PeopleForBikes stresses that even America's best bicycling cities leave a lot to be desired. Nowhere ranked higher than a three on the organization's five-point scale.

People for Bikes new ranking of top biking cities gives Fort Collins, Colorado, the top honors.
People for Bikes new ranking of top biking cities gives Fort Collins, Colorado, the top honors.

The new PeopleForBikes rating system attempts to ground the results in hard metrics. It's based on several spatial and quantitative factors, including the availability of high-quality bike infrastructure, traffic injury rates, and how much people bike.

Because the ratings also take recent public investments in cycling into account, PeopleForBikes expects them to be volatile.

"It rewards cities not just for what they did 20 years ago, but also what they’re doing right now," Michael Andersen writes at the PeopleForBikes' blog. "As a result, these ratings will change. Cities will move both up and down."

top-5-by-city-size

The ranking formula also assesses cycling levels by looking at how much people bike within concentric zones emanating from the city center. That helps to control for city size, meaning cities with a large geographic area like Austin won't be inherently disadvantaged versus cities with tighter boundaries.

While the rankings only include American cities, they're also intended to hold the U.S. up against the world's best places for biking. No city received more than three stars out of a potential five-star rating.

"As much as it might hurt not to have any superstars, that’s honest," PeopleForBikes President Tim Blumenthal told Andersen.

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