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 City Roads and Trails Riders and Bicycles Safety and Weather
1 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 23 3 50
2 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 29 23 23
3 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 54 25 16
4 Boise City, ID 46 5 101
5 Salt Lake City, UT 50 32 45
6 Gainesville, FL 10 53 63
7 Trenton, NJ 60 18 71
8 Provo-Orem, UT 50 22 81
9 Lincoln, NE 45 2 156
9 Savannah, GA 32 37 77
11 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 111 6 19
12 Austin-Round Rock, TX 78 29 31
13 St. Louis, MO-IL 3 56 103
14 Ann Arbor, MI 24 28 147
15 Springfield, MO 7 45 132
15 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 4 83 24
17 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 110 21 1
18 Charlottesville, VA 95 13 65
19 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 36 66 27
20 Pittsburgh, PA 37 49 83
21 Columbus, OH 38 35 127
22 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 108 27 25
23 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 98 42 2
24 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 78 56 3
25 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 30 50 126
26 Lansing-East Lansing, MI 24 33 192
27 Lancaster, PA 60 18 173
28 Richmond, VA 84 51 38
29 Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA 112 43 10
30 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 8 98 54
31 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 172 4 17
32 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 157 14 19
33 Madison, WI 125 7 109
34 Duluth, MN-WI 38 56 152
35 Kansas City, MO-KS 1 96 107
36 Urban Honolulu, HI 156 16 39
37 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 105 62 4
38 Lexington-Fayette, KY 86 24 157
39 Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA 157 31 5
40 Burlington-South Burlington, VT 120 1 175
40 Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL 10 110 68
42 College Station-Bryan, TX 138 20 87
42 Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL 10 80 163
44 Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA 157 34 8
45 Cleveland-Elyria, OH 73 47 143
46 Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ 116 51 47
47 York-Hanover, PA 60 84 64
48 San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA 157 39 7
49 Durham-Chapel Hill, NC 117 55 41
49 Reno, NV 104 37 121
51 Jacksonville, FL 10 127 46
52 Boulder, CO 195 8 34
53 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 10 93 150
54 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 103 46 109
55 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 105 66 49
56 Chico, CA 157 36 36
57 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 9 136 33
57 Fort Collins, CO 195 9 42
59 Tuscaloosa, AL 40 71 168
60 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 193 15 32
61 Ogden-Clearfield, UT 50 95 79
62 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 126 53 54
63 Anchorage, AK 127 10 182
64 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 10 93 172
64 Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA 28 92 139
66 Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 47 97 96
67 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 6 140 56
68 Wichita, KS 53 75 162
69 Eugene, OR 178 29 52
70 Champaign-Urbana, IL 151 26 124
70 Olympia-Tumwater, WA 188 12 92
72 Santa Rosa, CA 157 63 6
73 Salisbury, MD-DE 82 72 132
74 Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL 10 155 28
75 Albuquerque, NM 80 75 129
75 Portland-South Portland, ME 173 11 135
77 Erie, PA 60 84 144
78 Columbus, GA-AL 32 115 111
78 Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL 10 110 170
80 Tucson, AZ 176 44 39
81 Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN 74 98 85
82 Fresno, CA 145 74 18
83 Barnstable Town, MA 169 56 26
84 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 119 69 93
84 Wilmington, NC 133 70 62
86 Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA 188 39 47
87 Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI 24 107 176
88 Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA 60 84 174
89 Kalamazoo-Portage, MI 2 119 187
90 Greeley, CO 154 17 190
91 Charleston-North Charleston, SC 146 68 56
92 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 76 114 59
93 Salem, OR 178 48 61
94 South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI 69 75 199
95 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 112 81 96
96 Dayton, OH 99 84 116
97 Springfield, MA 169 39 118
98 Reading, PA 60 129 70
99 Tallahassee, FL 10 155 98
99 Toledo, OH 80 84 171
101 Sioux Falls, SD 107 75 154
102 Salinas, CA 157 89 13
103 Cedar Rapids, IA 88 91 146
104 Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 31 127 154
104 Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL 10 178 43
106 Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 10 178 50
107 Bakersfield, CA 114 120 22
107 Rochester, NY 55 107 179
109 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY 49 115 169
110 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA 157 89 35
111 Bremerton-Silverdale, WA 188 56 74
112 Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ 60 129 123
113 Corpus Christi, TX 84 132 69
113 Roanoke, VA 95 124 71
115 Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC 32 151 117
115 Stockton-Lodi, CA 155 103 15
117 Modesto, CA 157 103 12
118 Port St. Lucie, FL 10 140 197
118 Prescott, AZ 186 63 76
120 Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton, PA 60 129 132
121 Chattanooga, TN-GA 128 98 90
122 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 68 118 153
123 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 118 134 9
124 Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 194 56 94
125 Syracuse, NY 55 120 185
126 Ocala, FL 10 178 102
127 Charleston, WV 69 109 193
128 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 5 170 148
129 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 94 146 53
130 Colorado Springs, CO 187 82 60
131 Vallejo-Fairfield, CA 157 120 11
132 Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL 88 115 166
133 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 92 142 78
134 Fort Wayne, IN 47 137 186
135 New Haven-Milford, CT 197 75 73
136 Appleton, WI 174 65 151
137 Lubbock, TX 124 101 145
138 Visalia-Porterville, CA 157 120 28
139 Oklahoma City, OK 184 73 121
140 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 88 171 21
141 Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO 120 112 138
142 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 82 162 67
143 Huntsville, AL 40 173 119
144 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 40 173 127
144 Evansville, IN-KY 69 137 177
146 Merced, CA 157 134 14
147 Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA 88 147 114
148 Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC 146 103 136
148 Raleigh, NC 76 185 30
150 Binghamton, NY 55 145 196
151 Lynchburg, VA 95 159 75
151 Topeka, KS 93 124 184
153 Kennewick-Richland, WA 188 103 58
154 Macon, GA 32 187 120
155 Montgomery, AL 40 173 149
156 Mobile, AL 40 173 159
157 Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH 69 148 194
158 Green Bay, WI 174 101 141
159 Asheville, NC 133 150 87
160 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 197 126 37
161 Knoxville, TN 128 152 99
162 Flint, MI 24 193 191
163 Amarillo, TX 138 132 158
164 El Paso, TX 75 189 115
165 Manchester-Nashua, NH 87 157 188
166 Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY 55 181 181
167 Tulsa, OK 185 113 130
168 Utica-Rome, NY 55 181 195
169 Lafayette, LA 180 149 44
170 Clarksville, TN-KY 128 152 142
171 Peoria, IL 151 143 125
172 Akron, OH 99 167 164
173 Killeen-Temple, TX 138 163 105
174 Yakima, WA 188 137 85
175 Brownsville-Harlingen, TX 138 163 112
175 Canton-Massillon, OH 99 167 178
177 Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA 99 167 180
178 Rockford, IL 151 143 164
179 Waco, TX 138 163 131
180 Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR 120 183 113
181 Columbia, SC 146 158 137
182 Fayetteville, NC 133 185 87
183 Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA 128 152 198
184 Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC 133 194 79
185 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 138 190 82
186 Baton Rouge, LA 177 172 66
187 Worcester, MA-CT 169 173 84
188 Jackson, MS 137 187 107
189 Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX 138 163 183
189 Fort Smith, AR-OK 120 183 159
191 Laredo, TX 132 199 95
192 Winston-Salem, NC 108 194 159
193 Norwich-New London, CT 197 159 104
194 Greensboro-High Point, NC 115 194 167
195 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 197 159 140
196 Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS 180 191 91
197 Shreveport-Bossier City, LA 180 191 106
198 Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV 180 200 100
199 Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC 146 197 189
200 Spartanburg, SC 146 198 200

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.

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 weighted 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