There are many important things a city can do to gain our consideration for this list: segregated bike lanes, municipal bike racks and bike boulevards, to name a few. If you have those things in your town, cyclists probably have the ear of the local government—another key factor. To make our Top 50, a city must also support a vibrant and diverse bike culture, and it must have smart, savvy bike shops. If your town isn’t named below, use this as an opportunity to do something about it. Already on the list? Go out and enjoy a ride. (Note: We considered only cities with populations of 100,000 or more, and we strove for geographical diversity to avoid having a list dominated by California’s many bike-oriented cities.)
To read about each of the 50 cities, click on the pinpoints on the map, or just click the arrows to browse through the list.
The Top 5 Small Bike-Friendly Cities in America
These cities have a population of less than 100,000 and are the leaders in cycling innovation.
By Christine Mattheis
1. Davis, CA (pop. 64,300)
People here like to brag that this northern California town has more bikes than cars. There are bike lanes on 95 percent of arterial roadways, and 14 percent of residents commute by bike (35 times the national average). Davis has two full-time bike coordinators, budgets about $100,000 per year for bike-facility maintenance and hosts a month-long bike celebration every May. The sport is so ingrained in the culture that the city symbol is a bicycle.
2. Corvallis, OR (pop. 53,165)
Home of Oregon State University, Corvallis residents, by percentage, take more trips by bike than in any other Oregon city. That's because the city made it easy to get around by bike: 97 percent of arterial streets have bike lanes. Mandatory bike-education programs and covered bike parking at elementary schools encourage kids to start riding.
3. Bellingham, WA (pop. 73,460)
Located an hour's drive from Vancouver, Bellingham is surrounded by forests filled with mountain bike trails. On the roads, there are 21 miles of bike lanes and 27 miles of shared-use pathways. A recent city initiative managed to decrease single-person car trips by 8 percent.
4. Missoula, MT (pop. 57,053)
Missoula averages almost 50 inches of snow in winter, but cyclists there need not worry-the city, which began building bike facilities more than 25 years ago, runs a plow specifically for bike lanes and paths. Recently, Missoula opened a bicycle and pedestrian bridge that links the city center, the University of Montana and two major paths.
5. Burlington, VT (pop. 38,889)
Burlington's picturesque country roads and trails have fostered a bustling cycling community-in fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named it the nation's healthiest city in 2008. Burlington's Way to Go! campaign encourages transportation alternatives. A city ordinance requires certain development projects to include long-term bike parking and commuter facilities such as showers and lockers.
America's Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities
2. Portland, OR
3. Boulder, CO
5. Eugene, OR
6. San Francisco
7. Madison, WI
8. New York City
9. Tucson, AZ
11. Austin, TX
12. Denver, CO
13. Washington, DC
14. Ann Arbor, MI
15. Phoenix/Tempe, AZ
16. Gainesville, FL
17. Albuquerque, NM
18. Colorado Springs, CO
19. Salem, OR
20. Scottsdale, AZ
21. Louisville, KY
22. Chattanooga, TN
23. Long Beach, CA
24. Cary, NC
29. Charleston, SC
30. Arlington, VA
31. Sioux Falls, SD
32. Boise, ID
33. Kansas City, MO
34. Columbus, OH
35. Tulsa, OK
36. Grand Rapids, MI
37. Billings, MT
38. St. Louis
40. Greensboro, NC
41. Lexington-Fayette, KY
42. Omaha, NE
43. Salt Lake City
46. Fargo, ND
47. Anchorage, AK
49. Little Rock, AR
50. Rochester, NY
To prepare this list, we referenced the Bicycling and Walking in the United States 2010 Benchmarking Report, prepared by the Alliance for Biking and Walking; the League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly America project; data from Mediamark Research, Inc., Dun & Bradstreet and The Nielsen Company; and advice from national and local bike advocates.
Top 5 International Bike-Friendly Cities
By Christine Mattheis
1. Amsterdam, Holland
In the 1960s, Amsterdam officials sought to avoid the noise, pollution and waste that increased car traffic could bring, so they explored promoting bicycle use. Now, cycling is a huge part of everyday life. Locals ride bikes for more than half of all trips in the city center, where more than 300 miles of bike lanes, paths, tunnels and bridges live harmoniously among motor vehicles.
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
In "the city of bikes," 36 percent of residents commute by bike daily, while only 27 percent drive. And it's a haven for bike tourists: Anyone can rent wheels from one of the 125 city bike-parking racks. Just deposit about $4, and when you return the bike you get your money back.
3. Bogota, Columbia
Nearly 75 miles of Bogota's streets are closed to motor vehicles every Sunday and holiday for Ciclovia, when cyclists take over. About 2 million people attend each event, which includes musical performances and group-fitness classes in parks. Though Bogota remains on the U.S. State Department's list of dangerous places for tourists, trouble is mostly limited to rural areas.
4. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona was among the first cities anywhere to implement a bike-sharing program. The 419 Bicing stations hold about 3,000 bicycles, which are accessed through a yearly subscription. The program discourages tourist participation, but plenty of companies rent bikes and offer tours that cover parts of the city's 100 kilometers of bike lanes and paths.
5. Berlin, Germany
Nearly all of Berlin's flat streets have bike lanes, and the 12 bike routes radiating from the city center take tourists to destinations like Museum Island and the Berlin Cathedral. Visitberlin.de, the city's tourism site, lists bike-rental companies and has a map feature that shows the best biking distance between any two points in the city.
Innovative Bicycle Facilities
These top new ideas may soon hit a street near you
By Christine Mattheis
Last year, Albuquerque cops began stashing bike lights in their squad cars and doling them out to cyclists who were riding without illumination at night. Cyclists must make a no-brainer decision on the spot: get a ticket or accept the free gift.
Picture lightly traveled side streets optimized for cyclists. Instead of painted bike lanes, the boulevards discourage motor-vehicle cut-through traffic, reduce the speed of cars to that of cyclists and, in some cases, use barriers to divert non-local traffic to main thoroughfares. Long Beach is creating them now; Tucson city officials hope boulevards will one day circle the whole city.
Streets in downtown Bogota, Colombia, have been closed to motorists on Sundays for its ciclovia event for years. Several American cities have adopted the practice, allowing only bicycle and pedestrian traffic at designated times. Phoenix's events drew 75,000 people-one in 20 residents-in its first year; other cities are seeing similar success.
Bicycle traffic lights
In Portland, a signal directs two-wheeled traffic through dangerous intersections connected to bike paths with bicycle-shaped red, amber and green lights. Cyclists activate the light by placing their wheels on a bike-shaped signal on the ground, then cross the intersection diagonally.
A bike box allows riders to pull in front of waiting traffic at an intersection. The 14-foot-wide green rectangles sit behind crosswalks and are often paired with bike lanes. San Francisco painted its first box in January; they've been on Portland and New York streets since 2008.
Widespread bike parking
Minneapolis is far ahead of the curve, with more than 15,000 bicycle parking spaces-430 spots for every 10,000 residents. The next-best are Austin, with 96 per 10,000 people, and Tucson with 69.
For an annual membership of about $100, cyclists in cities including Washington, DC and Seattle have access to 24-hour secured bicycle parking, changing rooms, basic repair assistance, maps and more.
Since 2008, the town of Collingswood, New Jersey, has revived the lives of bikes via an innovative program that uses bikes that were donated or picked up by the police and never reclaimed. For $25 a year, residents "rent" a donated or abandoned bike that's been refurbished by volunteers. Members keep the bikes at home, but can swap rides-say a road bike for a mountain bike-for free. The city hired a 23-year-old part time to run it, and he brought in all his friends as volunteer wrenches (maintenance work is also free).