Bicycling Magazine has put out its list of “America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities,” and Minneapolis is the big winner. If seeing a Midwest town topping the list surprises you, you’re not alone. But if this list proves anything, it’s that there are probably way more Americans working to make their community’s streets more livable than you’d ever imagined.
One of the main reasons Minneapolis is surprising as the #1 biking city in the U.S. is that it gets really freaking cold there. Turns out the city has taken measures to remain bike-friendly even in the winter months: In addition to 120 miles of bike paths, there are indoor bike parking lots to keep you and your bike toasty once you’ve arrived at your destination.
Other interesting tidbits I gleaned: Portland, OR (#2) gives out free bike lights. Boulder (#3) is surrounded by 120 miles of trails, while “Ninety-five percent of Boulder’s arterial streets are bike-friendly.” Seattle (#4) plans to triple the numbers of trips made by bike and add 450 miles of bike paths within the next decade. And Eugene, OR (#5) has lit bike paths.
But those cities are all probably fairly obvious, right? Well, consider this: Sioux Falls, SD (#31) has a bike path that circles the entire city. Boise, ID (#32) made the list in great part because Idaho is the only state in the U.S. with a “stop-as-yield law,” which allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs when it’s safe to do so. And the city of Fargo, North Dakota (#46) has employed a “bicycle coordinator” for the past 4 years, which is probably why it has over 200 miles of bike paths.
Poring through the rankings will reward you with many more ideas you can take to your own local cycling advocacy group and try to make a reality.
My own town of San Francisco came in 6th, a respectable number considering some local crankpots have managed to establish an injunction against improvements to the bicycling infrastructure in the city because, no lie, they argue that an environmental review needs to be done before we decide whether or not it’s a good idea for the city to be promoting the bike as a safe mode of transportation. Sad but true.
Despite this setback, however, bike ridership has increased by more than half since 2006. San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum responded to the 6th place finish for her city by saying, “One of the things I’m most proud of in San Francisco is that bicyclists are still on the cutting edge of re-imagining and pushing the envelope on how our city’s public space is valued. It’s not a coincidence that greater support for bicycling is connected to this larger, broader movement for more livable streets.”
Shahum is right: It’s not a coincidence that cyclists are often deeply involved in other projects to re-imagine city life. Most urban centers are still very much tailored to the needs of the automobile, and breaking up that transportation mode monopoly is the first and perhaps the most important step in working towards the people-friendly, sustainable urban centers of the future.
If you’re from a small town that you consider really bike-friendly, don’t get upset. Bicycling Magazine only considered cities with populations of 100,000 or more.
You can check out a handy map of the top 50 over on the Bicycling Magazine website, which also has links to good resources for both cyclists and mountain bikers. I’ll let them have the last word: “If your town isn’t named… use this as an opportunity to do something about it. Already on the list? Go out and enjoy a ride.”
Image credit: Spencer T.