Personal Finance

Best Cities for Biking

Best Cities for Biking

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.
person biking in city
person biking in city Source: Getty Images

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 the 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
1Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI23350
2Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD292323
3New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA542516
4Boise City, ID465101
5Salt Lake City, UT503245
6Gainesville, FL105363
7Trenton, NJ601871
8Provo-Orem, UT502281
9Lincoln, NE452156
9Savannah, GA323777
11Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH111619
12Austin-Round Rock, TX782931
Show All Rows

Top (and bottom) 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.

Park access

Best cities

Rank
City
State
1San FranciscoCalifornia
2BostonMassachusetts
3New YorkNew York
4MinneapolisMinnesota
5PhiladelphiaPennsylvania
6SeattleWashington
7ChicagoIllinois
8MilwaukeeWisconsin
9BaltimoreMaryland
10DenverColorado

Not all cities had parks data available, so we weren't able to determine a 'Worst' list.

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

Best cities

Rank
City
State
1EugeneOregon
2Santa MariaCalifornia
3BoulderCalifornia
4Fort CollinsColorado
5Santa CruzCalifornia

Worst cities

Rank
City
State
200LaredoTexas
199El PasoTexas
198MemphisTennessee
197AkronOhio
196BirminghamAlabama

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

Best cities

Rank
City
State
1BarnstableMassachusetts
2BoulderColorado
3Fort CollinsColorado
4CrestviewFlorida
5BurlingtonVermont

Worst cities

Rank
City
State
200BrownsvilleTexas
199LaredoTexas
198BakersfieldCalifornia
197VisaliaCalifornia
196HuntingtonWest Virginia

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-place 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 a hole in our data categories.

Below, we break down 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 (0.5)
3.Percent of population with walkable park access (within half a mile) (0.5)
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) (0.5)Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (2014)
8.Bike-share program (number of stations) (0.5)
9.Annual average bicycle death rate per million residents *Governing (2012)
10.Bicycle usage growth (from 2000 to 2014) (0.5)The League of American Bicyclists (2014)

Safety and weather

Read more: Do You Need Bike Insurance?