Many cities in the United States are challenged by issues of traffic congestion and air pollution, which are directly related to high rates of automobile use. In recent years, cities have developed policies to encourage commuters to ride bicycles as a solution to these problems. The Alliance for Biking and Walking has conducted research and produces annual reports on the best cities in the United States for cyclists.
Portland had the fifth-highest cycling rate of all major American cities with a cycling or pedestrian rate of 12.1% of the total commuters, according to a 2016 report from the Alliance for Biking and Walking. In fact, Portland has consistently ranked in the top five since 2014. The city also posted impressive statistics on cyclist safety, with only 3.4 cyclist fatalities per 10,000 commuters.
According to the Alliance for Biking and Walking's 2016 Benchmarking Report, Boston ranked highest city in terms of its share of cycling and pedestrian commuters. The city was awarded top spot in this category for a second year in a row, a position it shared with Washington, D.C., having 16.7% of all commuters walking or cycling to work. With only 1.6 cyclist fatalities per 10,000 commuters, Boston also posted excellent results regarding cyclist safety, tying Washington, D.C. again for first place. The city's Transport Department even established the Boston Bikes program, which aims to encourage commuters to cycle.
8. Washington, D.C.
According to a 2010 study, commuters in Washington D.C. spent an average of 70 hours per year in traffic, which meant that the capital city experienced some of the worst road congestion in the United States. As a result, residents have increasingly began up cycling as an alternative mode of transportation, and the number of cyclists is rapidly increasing. Findings from the 2016 Benchmarking Report indicate Washington shares top spot with Boston for the highest percentage of cycling and walking commuters at 16.7%. There are two bike-sharing systems in the city: SmartBike D.C.; and Capital Bikeshare.
Minneapolis is one of the best cycling cities in the country. In 2014, the city was voted third best city in the US for biking by Bicycling Magazine. According to the 2014 US Census Bureau, Minneapolis had the second best-bicycling community in the country. Additionally, the 2016 Benchmarking Report indicated that 10.4% of all commuters in Minneapolis walk or cycle to work, which is the eighth highest percentage in all major American cities.
Chicago’s cycling culture is one of the oldest in the country, and can be traced back to the bicycle’s invention in the mid-19th century. In fact, by 1900, Chicago was home to 54 bicycle clubs at least 10,000 members in size. Several city mayors have been cycling-enthusiasts, which has resulted in investments in bicycle-related infrastructure. For example, Mayor Richard J Daley's administration built numerous bicycle paths and lanes, including rush-hour bicycle lanes on Dearborn and Clark Streets. The extensive cycling infrastructure has led to a cyclist rate of 8.1%, the ninth highest percentage of all the key US cities.
Philadelphia is an ideal city for cyclists in the US. The city’s pedestrians and cyclists account for 10.6% of commuters, a figure that ranks Philadelphia seventh in the 2016 Benchmarking Report produced by the Alliance for Biking and Walking. The city's naturally flat terrain is conducive for cycling. Philadelphia has also invested in cycling infrastructure, with a current total of 435 miles of bike lanes across the city. In 2015, Philadelphia launched the Indego bike-sharing program, which enables commuters to rent a bicycle for a small fee.
4. New York
New York City boasted the country’s first bike path in 1894, and this legacy has resulted in a growing cycling culture. The city’s pedestrians and cyclists account for 11.2% of total commuters, which is the sixth highest rate of all major US cities. New York City has invested in a cycling transport network with Class I, II, and III bike lanes spread across the city. (Class II and III bike lanes make up the majority of the bike lanes.) The city also launched a bike-sharing program, known as CitiBike, which had 4,300 bicycles across 220 stations in 2013.
3. San Francisco
The cycling culture in San Francisco has experienced rapid growth in recent years. 13.9% of all commuters in the city walking or cycling to work, which represents the third highest percentage in large US cities, behind only Boston and Washington, D.C. The increased popularity of cycling is attributed to improved infrastructure present throughout the city. In total, 23 miles of San Francisco's streets have bike paths (the majority of which are located in the city’s parks), plus an additional 132 miles of Class III bike routes. The city has promotes its cycling culture by hosting many bicycle-related events, including the Tour de Fat.
Described as having a "love affair" with cycling, Boulder is arguably the most famous bicycling city in Colorado. According to the 2016 Benchmarking Report, 21.3% of Boulder's commuters walk or ride bicycles, which is the third highest percentage in US cities. Most city residents own a bicycle, and each Thursday evening the city hosts the Boulder Cruiser Ride, which attracts hundreds of participants. Individuals without bikes can rent from one of the 38 B-cycle bicycle sharing kiosks across the city. Additionally, the safety of cyclists is a top priority for Boulder authorities, which is reflected in the city's low rate of 1.1 cycling fatalities per 10,000 commuters.
The 2016 Benchmarking Report of the Alliance for Biking and Walking ranked Burlington as the best city for cyclists, with the highest percentage of cycling or walking commuters at 26.9%. Burlington also emerged as the safest city for cyclists. The city recorded 0.6 cyclist or pedestrian fatalities per 10,000 commuters, which is the lowest rate in the country. In 2016, the city's cyclist-friendly transport system earned the Share the Road Cycling Coalition's silver rating. This is largely attributed to Burlington's investment in cyclist-friendly facilities, including 48 kilometers of bike lanes, 47.3 kilometers of bike route streets, and 52.5 kilometers of multi-use paths adjacent to roads.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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