People want to live in active communities that are walkable, bikeable, and playable. When communities inspire a more physically active population, they experience resulting economic, social, health, safety, and environmental benefits. Many cities across the US are realizing the numerous benefits of becoming more bike-friendly, but some are clearly leading the pack.
Cycling advocacy group PeopleForBikes published their 2023 City Ratings, compiling a list of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S. They considered factors including safe speeds, protected bike lanes, reallocated space for biking and walking, intersection treatments, network connections, and trusted and reliable data. Read more here on how their ranking works.
Here were 6 of the winners of last year and how they're trailblazing an active and sustainable community-driven future.
#1. Provincetown, MA
With a population of just over 3,000, Provincetown has made a name for itself with its cycling and sustainable community initiatives. The quaint city contains an impressive 5 bike shops, which is enough to have one shop for every 600 residents.
Bikes are also allowed on every road within the Cape Cod National Seashore boundaries, with more than 7 miles of bike trails. Due to this, over 12% of the entire population in the town are exclusively bike commuters. If you're feeling adventurous, you can take the 125-mile route down to Boston, or take the ferry that carries thousands of cyclists every year.
#2. Crested Butte, CO
Although this #2 spot is primarily known for its mountain biking experiences, hopping on a road bike is definitely not something to balk at here. With some of the best scenery, traffic, and rewarding climbs, Crested Butte is an outdoor enthusiast's cycling dream.
With over 750 miles of bike trails, you can cycle to your heart's content without ever running out of new experiences. They also have a 34-year running "Ride the Rockies" trip taking over 2,000 riders on a six-day cross-state tour. With only 1,400 people living in Crested Butte, getting away has never been easier.
#3. Blue Diamond, NV
Just 15 minutes from the Las Vegas strip, it might be odd to consider there is a bike haven so close, but Blue Diamond reigns supreme at #3 on this list. The town has trails expanding from all sides of its borders, taking adventurers to places like, Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, Red Rock Canyon, or a 10+ mile ride along the North Cottonwood Trail System.
Southern Nevada also announced initiatives in 2017 with three primary goals in mind:
- Develop comprehensive facilities throughout southern Nevada that make bicycling and walking safe, comfortable, and convenient for all ages and abilities
- Improve bicycling and walking access to community destinations across southern Nevada, including connections to transit
- Encourage broader participation, appreciation, and awareness of walking and bicycling through program efforts targeted at all ages and abilities
#4. Davis, CA
With over 100 miles of bike lanes fit inside a city that's only 11 square miles, Davis sets itself apart. While most cities were built for cars throughout the 1960s and 70s, Davis was built for bikes. This is exemplified by their modal share, a percentage defining the number of people using certain methods of transportation. While most of America sees about 2% of its population cycling, Davis sees over 20%, nearing the Netherlands' 25%.
In fact, the University of California Davis imposed a car ban (that's still active) for all residential students, encouraging them to use public transportation or walk instead of a car. With 98% of their roads including some sort of bike provision, it's typically not an issue for students attending.
#5. New York, NY
New York has seen an 83% increase in ridership between 2010 and 2014, due in part to the city's dedication to safety initiatives. Over $100 million has been committed to the redevelopment and installation of protected bike lanes, and more than 50 miles of bike lanes (15 protected) are currently planned.
The New York Department of Health estimates that more than 500,000 adults use a bike at least once a month in New York, and 200,000 cycle the city every day. The city has continually seen double-digit growth in bike ridership year over year as it commits to making streets safer for cyclists.
#6. Seattle, WA
Seattle is tackling the issues of future growth and density by investing in their bicycle culture. Seattle's master bike plan is focused on increasing ridership, improving safety, and creating a high-quality bicycle network to connect riders throughout the city. Over the past four years, Seattle has invested $36 million in bicycle improvements guided by the plan.
Of the 17 Washington communities acknowledged for being bike-friendly, Seattle alone earned a gold ranking. Washington State has proven its commitment to expanding bike-friendly communities, being named the #1 most bike-friendly state for eight years in a row by the Bike Friendly America program. While Seattle has a bit more work to do to reach platinum status, it's clear that the city is pedaling toward a bike-powered future.
How Does Sacramento Rank as a Bike-Friendly City?
Sacramento is a wonderful and opportunistic destination for daily cyclists or those who enjoy a day out on the town. The 32 miles of Sacramento's American River Trailway that takes cyclists from downtown Sacramento to Folsom is one big reason that Sacramento made the list, but there's plenty of room for improvement. Sacramento's flat topography and temperate year-round climate present ideal conditions for bicycling as a primary mode of transportation.
Sacramento has set an ambitious goal to become the most liveable city in America with its 2035 General Plan. To achieve this goal, a bicycle master plan has been put in place.
The goals of Sacramento's bicycle master plan include:
- Increasing ridership to reach 7% bicycle commuting by 2020
- Increasing bicycle safety and eliminating bicyclist fatalities
- Increasing connectivity by doubling the percentage of residents with convenient access to a bike network by 2025
- Increasing equitable investments in bicycle facilities and programs for all neighborhoods by 2020
Sacramento currently has 316 miles of on-street bikeways, most of which are striped bike lanes, with 148 additional miles planned to bring the total to 464 miles of bikeway. Sacramento has 88 miles of existing off-street bikeways, most of which are paved bike paths, with 120 more planned for a total of 208 miles of off-street paths.
Sacramento is developing its first major separated, protected bikeway on North 12th Street in the River District.
As Sacramento looks to the future of planning and development, focusing on making California's Capital City one of America's most bike-friendly cities will be integral to its success. There's still a lot of road to pave, but a more active and cycle-centric city could define the future of Sacramento.