Best Bike Friendly Cities? Look to the Northwest

Meet 10 cities that are great for biking. Photo: Darren Burton/Indego via Better Bike Share Partnership/Flickr
Meet 10 cities that are great for biking. Photo: Darren Burton/Indego via Better Bike Share Partnership/Flickr

If you want to live and bike safely in a city head to the Northwest. And definitely get out of Tucson.

The top three “most bikeable places” in America this year are Boulder, Colo.; Fort Collins, Colo.; and Eugene, Ore., according to the bicycle advocacy group PeopleForBikes — which also reported that six of the top 24 bike-friendly municipalities are in those two states as well.

With a population hovering over 100,000 and a reputation as the healthiest town in America, Boulder topped PeopleForBikes’ ratings with a total of 3.7 out of five stars across five categories. That’s an improvement from last year when it placed third with 3.4 stars behind Fort Collins, and Wassau, Wisc.

The Colorado college town impressed PeopleForBikes’ data geeks thanks to its more than 300 miles of bike lanes (4.1 stars), high numbers of bike commuters and recreational riders (3.2 stars), and a safety score that nearly doubled from the previous year (3 stars in 2019 compared with 1.8 stars in 2018) thanks to fewer injuries and fatalities reported involving collisions with speeding vehicles.

Fort Collins slipped to second place with 3.6 stars, although the city earned higher marks for increasing the numbers of women and people of color riding regularly, PeopleForBikes found.

To compile the data, PeopleForBikes crunched Census figures, analysis from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, plus the group’s own analysis of city planning information, maps, and surveys from community members in cities.

“We focused this year’s efforts on engaging more cities to improve accuracy of ratings,” PeopleForBikes director of research Jennifer Boldry said in a statement. “Better accuracy provides a more valuable tool that helps cities benchmark, set goals and measure progress.”

The list changes year to year to account for traffic injury rates, ridership figures and public investment in creating bike lanes and other infrastructure.

Eugene, for instance, jumped into the top 10 and was in a three-way tie for third place with the borough of Manhattan in New York City, and Arlington, Va., another high-ranked newcomer, with 3.4 stars. They were followed by Portland, Ore.; the Brooklyn section of New York City; and Lawrence, Kan., in a three-way tie for sixth place with 3.3 stars. Minneapolis and Madison, the Wisconsin capital, tied for 10th with 3.2 stars.

Meanwhile Wassau plummeted from third place last year to 29th while Tucson dropped from fifth to 32nd. Both cities had 2.9 stars and were penalized for low “acceleration” scores or how quickly a city improves its infrastructure and gets people riding.

“Providing annual ratings helps cities make quick, cost-effective progress toward building a network where people of all ages,” said PeopleForBikes President Tim Blumenthal.

6 thoughts on Best Bike Friendly Cities? Look to the Northwest

  1. One wonders if the writer realizes the front range of Colorado, where Boulder and Fort Collins are located, is about two days’ drive from the Pacific Northwest.

  2. But if you search YouTube you will find videos of public transit buses (RTD) in Boulder intentionally serving at cyclists in the bike lane. Not surprising when one considers that I’ve heard both RTD managers and instructors tell bus drivers to ignore the 3 foot to pass law.

  3. Anybody who puts Boulder and/or Fort Collins on one of these lists should be required to go spend a week riding around Boulder and Fort Collins first. Nothing convinces me a bicycle list is bunk faster than seeing Boulder at the top of it.

    Also, it’s already been pointed out, but I feel it should be emphasized that Boulder is a long, long way from the Northwest. Saying Colorado is in the Northwest is kind of like saying Ohio is a Sunbelt state.

  4. I wonder if People for (the sales of) Bikes considered the fact that Fort Collins bans bicyclists from the main North-South street (College Avenue) that runs through the city? It’s hard to be a bike friendly city when bikes can’t be used legally to access the hundreds of businesses (including bike shops) and even some residential areas without having to jump through the hoops of navigating the nearby multi-use trail or parallel streets. It also communicates the idea to society that bikes only belong on certain roads. Advocates in Fort Collins have severely let the the cycling community down with focusing on the wrong things. One of the former “big wigs” of the advocacy scene there, who recently moved out of state was very hostile and unprofessional to several of us when we criticized the College Ave. ban and many of the other hazardous facilities promoted.

    PFB and other biking advocates loves to focus on “x miles of bike stuff” as a metric but do they count the hundreds of miles of hazardous door zone bike lanes? Bike lanes in gutters? Bike lanes that become “coffin corners” at intersections?

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