Best Cities for Biking

by Douglas Burger

 
 
 
 

From 2000 to 2014, bicycle commuting in the U.S. grew by 62%, according to the League of American Bicyclists. And with personal health and the environment moving to the front of most minds, it seems like the time to be biking. We worked to come up with best cities in the U.S. for bicyclists, using 16 data points from nine reputable sources. Below you will find our results, as well as a detailed methodology explaining how we arrived at them.

Best Places for Biking

There are a lot of different factors that make a city ideal for bicyclists. We attempted to gather as many of these as possible to create the most well-rounded list. Below, we take a look at three of these factors in greater detail and point to their origin.

Here is how 200 cities with qualifying data stacked up in the three separate categories that we studied. In all rankings below, a lower number is better than a higher number.

Rank

CityRoads and TrailsRiders and BicyclesSafety and Weather

1

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI23350

2

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD292323

3

New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA542516

4

Boise City, ID465101

5

Salt Lake City, UT503245

6

Gainesville, FL105363

7

Trenton, NJ601871

8

Provo-Orem, UT502281

9

Lincoln, NE452156

9

Savannah, GA323777

11

Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH111619

12

Austin-Round Rock, TX782931

13

St. Louis, MO-IL356103

14

Ann Arbor, MI2428147

15

Springfield, MO745132

15

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL48324

17

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA110211

18

Charlottesville, VA951365

19

Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD366627

20

Pittsburgh, PA374983

21

Columbus, OH3835127

22

Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA1082725

23

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA98422

24

San Diego-Carlsbad, CA78563

25

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC3050126

26

Lansing-East Lansing, MI2433192

27

Lancaster, PA6018173

28

Richmond, VA845138

29

Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA1124310

30

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL89854

31

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA172417

32

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV1571419

33

Madison, WI1257109

34

Duluth, MN-WI3856152

35

Kansas City, MO-KS196107

36

Urban Honolulu, HI1561639

37

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA105624

38

Lexington-Fayette, KY8624157

39

Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA157315

40

Burlington-South Burlington, VT1201175

40

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL1011068

42

College Station-Bryan, TX1382087

42

Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL1080163

44

Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA157348

45

Cleveland-Elyria, OH7347143

46

Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ1165147

47

York-Hanover, PA608464

48

San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA157397

49

Durham-Chapel Hill, NC1175541

49

Reno, NV10437121

51

Jacksonville, FL1012746

52

Boulder, CO195834

53

North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL1093150

54

Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI10346109

55

New Orleans-Metairie, LA1056649

56

Chico, CA1573636

57

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA913633

57

Fort Collins, CO195942

59

Tuscaloosa, AL4071168

60

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO1931532

61

Ogden-Clearfield, UT509579

62

Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ1265354

63

Anchorage, AK12710182

64

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL1093172

64

Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA2892139

66

Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN479796

67

Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL614056

68

Wichita, KS5375162

69

Eugene, OR1782952

70

Champaign-Urbana, IL15126124

70

Olympia-Tumwater, WA1881292

72

Santa Rosa, CA157636

73

Salisbury, MD-DE8272132

74

Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL1015528

75

Albuquerque, NM8075129

75

Portland-South Portland, ME17311135

77

Erie, PA6084144

78

Columbus, GA-AL32115111

78

Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL10110170

80

Tucson, AZ1764439

81

Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN749885

82

Fresno, CA1457418

83

Barnstable Town, MA1695626

84

Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI1196993

84

Wilmington, NC1337062

86

Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA1883947

87

Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI24107176

88

Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA6084174

89

Kalamazoo-Portage, MI2119187

90

Greeley, CO15417190

91

Charleston-North Charleston, SC1466856

92

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX7611459

93

Salem, OR1784861

94

South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI6975199

95

Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV1128196

96

Dayton, OH9984116

97

Springfield, MA16939118

98

Reading, PA6012970

99

Tallahassee, FL1015598

99

Toledo, OH8084171

101

Sioux Falls, SD10775154

102

Salinas, CA1578913

103

Cedar Rapids, IA8891146

104

Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN31127154

104

Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL1017843

106

Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL1017850

107

Bakersfield, CA11412022

107

Rochester, NY55107179

109

Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY49115169

110

Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA1578935

111

Bremerton-Silverdale, WA1885674

112

Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ60129123

113

Corpus Christi, TX8413269

113

Roanoke, VA9512471

115

Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC32151117

115

Stockton-Lodi, CA15510315

117

Modesto, CA15710312

118

Port St. Lucie, FL10140197

118

Prescott, AZ1866376

120

Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton, PA60129132

121

Chattanooga, TN-GA1289890

122

Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN68118153

123

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA1181349

124

Providence-Warwick, RI-MA1945694

125

Syracuse, NY55120185

126

Ocala, FL10178102

127

Charleston, WV69109193

128

Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI5170148

129

Memphis, TN-MS-AR9414653

130

Colorado Springs, CO1878260

131

Vallejo-Fairfield, CA15712011

132

Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL88115166

133

San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX9214278

134

Fort Wayne, IN47137186

135

New Haven-Milford, CT1977573

136

Appleton, WI17465151

137

Lubbock, TX124101145

138

Visalia-Porterville, CA15712028

139

Oklahoma City, OK18473121

140

Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC8817121

141

Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO120112138

142

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX8216267

143

Huntsville, AL40173119

144

Birmingham-Hoover, AL40173127

144

Evansville, IN-KY69137177

146

Merced, CA15713414

147

Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA88147114

148

Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC146103136

148

Raleigh, NC7618530

150

Binghamton, NY55145196

151

Lynchburg, VA9515975

151

Topeka, KS93124184

153

Kennewick-Richland, WA18810358

154

Macon, GA32187120

155

Montgomery, AL40173149

156

Mobile, AL40173159

157

Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH69148194

158

Green Bay, WI174101141

159

Asheville, NC13315087

160

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT19712637

161

Knoxville, TN12815299

162

Flint, MI24193191

163

Amarillo, TX138132158

164

El Paso, TX75189115

165

Manchester-Nashua, NH87157188

166

Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY55181181

167

Tulsa, OK185113130

168

Utica-Rome, NY55181195

169

Lafayette, LA18014944

170

Clarksville, TN-KY128152142

171

Peoria, IL151143125

172

Akron, OH99167164

173

Killeen-Temple, TX138163105

174

Yakima, WA18813785

175

Brownsville-Harlingen, TX138163112

175

Canton-Massillon, OH99167178

177

Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA99167180

178

Rockford, IL151143164

179

Waco, TX138163131

180

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR120183113

181

Columbia, SC146158137

182

Fayetteville, NC13318587

183

Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA128152198

184

Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC13319479

185

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX13819082

186

Baton Rouge, LA17717266

187

Worcester, MA-CT16917384

188

Jackson, MS137187107

189

Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX138163183

189

Fort Smith, AR-OK120183159

191

Laredo, TX13219995

192

Winston-Salem, NC108194159

193

Norwich-New London, CT197159104

194

Greensboro-High Point, NC115194167

195

Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT197159140

196

Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS18019191

197

Shreveport-Bossier City, LA180191106

198

Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV180200100

199

Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC146197189

200

Spartanburg, SC146198200

Top (and Bottom) Five Cities for:

While roads and trails are most helpful in bike commuting, parks are still a great place for a ride. Using The Trust for Public Land as a resource, we looked at the percentage of a city’s population within a half mile of a park. San Francisco topped our list with more than 98% of its population with easy park access. Full disclosure: Not all cities had a data point available, hence the lack of a "worst" list.

Park Access

Bike lane and road quality is a huge factor for a bicycle commuter. We assumed that the more people that are biking to work in a given city, the greater the quality of those things. The U.S. Census Bureau captures the percentage of a population that uses bicycles to commute to work. Eugene, Ore., and Santa Maria, Calif., tied at the top with 4.4% of their populations bicycling to work.

Commuters who bike

Quality equipment is important in both road and off-road biking. Using the U.S. Census Bureau, we looked at the number of sporting goods stores per 1,000 residents.

Cities with the Most Sporting Goods Stores

Methodology

In order to determine the best cities for bicyclists and bicycling we looked at 16 data points from nine reputable sources. Not all data points had data available for every city. In these cases, cities without a data figure were given a last-placed ranking in that specific category. Incomplete data points were given a lower weighting (in parenthesis below) in order to accommodate for missing data. Complete data points as well as those that we felt would be most important to a bicyclist were given higher weightings. The three separate categories of data points were also weighed to best capture what we believe is most important to bicyclists.

Information for a few potential data points was unavailable and had to be omitted from this study. The U.S. Census Bureau, for example, does not have current information on bike/repair shops, something we would have liked to include because bicyclists' accessibility to get tune-ups and tire refills is important. (We included data point number 16 below as a compromise.) Additionally, the Federal Bureau of Investigation groups bicycle thefts under larceny theft and, while data is available for larceny theft, bicycle theft only accounts for about 4%. As much as we wanted to account for the safety of bike owners' wheels, the absence of reliable data left something of a hole in our data categories.

Below, we breakdown each statistic and point to its origin. Those marked with an asterisk are state-based (not city-based).

Roads and Trails

1.Parkland (includes city, county, metro, state, and federal acres within city limits) (0.5)The Trust for Public Land (2014)
2.Parkland per 1,000 residents (.5)
3.Percent of population with walkable park access (within ½ mile) (.5)
4.Length of trail (in miles) *TrailLink (2016)

5.Percentage of roads in poor/mediocre condition *

U.S. Department of Transportation (2013)

Riders and Bicycles

6.Percentage of commuters who bike (2)U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
7.Bike-share program (number of bikes) (.5)Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (2014)
8.Bike-share program (number of stations) (.5)
9.Annual average bicycle death rate per million residents *Governing*(2012)
10.Bicycle usage growth (from 2000 to 2014) (.5)The League of American Bicyclists (2014)

Safety and Weather

11.Member/affiliate member of National Association of City Transportation Officials (.5) National Association of City Transportation Officials (2016)
12.Bicycle-friendly states (including a look at legislation/enforcement)* The League of American Bicyclists (2015)
13.Average days with precipitation per year (1.5)National Centers for Environmental Information (2014)
14.Average number of days per year with temperature below 32 and above 90 degrees (1.5)
15.Fitness and recreational sports centers per 1,000 residents (.5)U.S. Census Bureau (2014) U.S. Census Bureau (2014)

16. Sporting goods stores per 1,000 residents (.5)

Experts' Take

Stay tuned as we track down more professionals and academics to gauge their opinions on the best places for bicyclists to do their thing.

Have something to contribute? Drop us a line @VP_Careers.

Comments and Questions