1: Portland (Bike Score: 70.3)

In these maps, the most bikeable areas are in green, with the least bikeable in dark red.

2: San Francisco (Bike Score: 70)

Bike Score uses four criteria, weighted equally: the availability of infrastructure like bike lanes, hilliness, route options, and the level of commuting.

3: Denver (Bike Score: 69.5)

The scores are out of 100, with 90–100 deemed a "biker’s paradise", 70-89 "very bikeable", 50-89 "bikeable", and 0-49 "somewhat bikeable."

4: Philadelphia (Bike Score: 68.4)

5: Boston (Bike Score: 67.8)

6: Washington, D.C. (Bike Score: 65.3)

7: Seattle (Bike Score: 64.1)

8: Tucson (Bike Score: 64.1)

9: New York (Bike Score: 62.3)

10: Chicago (Bike Score: 61.5)

2013-05-16

Co.Exist

The 10 Best Biking Cities In America

Biking map site BikeScore has released a new ranking of the country’s best cities for biking, accounting for factors like bike lanes, hilliness, route options, and number of commuters. How does your city rank?

A recent international ranking of the world’s best cities for biking didn’t shower North America with plaudits. Only one city—Montreal—made it to the top 20. But the truth about biking in the U.S. and Canada is more complicated than that headline suggests: there are some really nice places to bike, and some, well, are best approached with caution.

A new expanded ranking of bikeability from biking map service BikeScore in U.S. cities gives a sense of the contrasts. At the top are cities like Cambridge, Massachusetts, Davis and Berkeley, California, and Boulder, Colorado—all rated "very bikeable" (or in Cambridge’s case, as a "biker’s paradise"). Then, at the bottom, you have Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Chattanooga and Nashville-Davidson, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama—all rated, gently, as "somewhat bikeable."

Bike Score is put together by Walk Score, the walkability mapping service, and uses four criteria, weighted equally: the availability of infrastructure like bike lanes, hilliness, route options (are there places to go on your bike?), and the level of commuting. It awards scores out of 100, with 90–100 deemed a "biker’s paradise," 70-89 "very bikeable," 50-89 "bikeable," and 0-49 "somewhat bikeable" (though it’s hard to see how a city could be somewhat bikeable if it scored 0—but anyway).

Among cities with more than 500,000 people, at the top were Portland, Oregon (70.3 points), San Francisco (70), Denver (69.5), Philadelphia (68.4), Boston (67.8), and Washington D.C. (65.3). The worst included Charlotte, North Carolina (35.2), and Fort Worth, Texas (38.5).

The full top 10 bikeable large cities are:

  • Portland (Bike Score: 70.3)
  • San Francisco (Bike Score: 70)
  • Denver (Bike Score: 69.5)
  • Philadelphia (Bike Score: 68.4)
  • Boston (Bike Score: 67.8)
  • Washington, D.C. (Bike Score: 65.3)
  • Seattle (Bike Score: 64.1)
  • Tucson (Bike Score: 64.1)
  • New York (Bike Score: 62.3)
  • Chicago (Bike Score: 61.5)

Josh Herst, CEO at Walk Score, says the cities score well for different things. Portland has a high rate of commuting, for example, while San Francisco scores well for infrastructure (and less well for hilliness). "We believe there is a meaningful difference in the biking experience between places in these different ranges," he adds.

The heat maps above show that cycling experiences also vary within cities. The most bikeable areas are in green, with the least bikeable in dark red. One of the main points of Bike Score, like Walk Score, is to help you find a place to live: by looking at the map, you can find out if commuting or shopping will be bikeable for you.

Herst thinks it’s fairer to compare larger cities, rather than lumping cities of different sizes together (which is why he separates the larger cities out). But you can check out the full 100 here.

Meanwhile, for more info, you could look to the League of American Bicyclists, which has a 2013 state-by-state ranking here.

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16 Comments

  • saimin

    Kind of lame that these scores count hills but not weather. I would much rather bike up a hill than bike through a snow storm.

  • Tyler Patterson

    How is the Twin Cities not on this? Ridiculous. Most bike friendly metro in the US.

  • scsj

    In fact, Minneapolis rated 79 on this, which would have given it first place by a HUGE margin, but they STUPIDLY decided to define "major US city" as "more than 500,000 within the city limits of the core city," implying that Tucson is somehow a bigger and more major city than Minneapolis-St. Paul (even though the Twin Cities are the same size as Seattle).

    So you can rest knowing that Minneapolis is firmly number one among US metro areas and that that's backed up by data. But unfortunately, in yet ANOTHER major rankings list, the Twin Cities are overlooked because they happen to have small city limits (even though this has zero to do with the true size and effect of the city).

  • Chazerai

    I for one would love to have more insight on the decision-criteria behind the data modeling.  

    It seemed odd to me that Seattle would score so low, until you look at the data that was collected.  I wonder how much higher we would have scored had WalkScore not included the Eastside – which to anyone living here is NOT Seattle.  Everything east of Lake Washington is a completely different municipality – Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah.  And ironically, Bainbridge Island was not included, which (as many of my cycling colleagues can attest) boasts one of the most bike-friendly communities in the Puget Sound area.

    If you are going to score/judge a CITY based on data, at least have that data be determined by something less arbitrary than search radius – CITY LIMITS would be a good start.

  • six7

    Totally agree. I made a point about Minneapolis, who shares much of the same size and demographics as Seattle and POrtland that actually scored a 79... better than Portland. But it's population is ~400,000 and the limit is 500,000. So I wonder where the lines are drawn?

  • Wmlynch

    I do. But, I live in a bike desert in Charlotte, NC. It sucks not being able to safely ride. 

  • six7

    For cities that put a lot of pride and money in municipal infrastructure to support this type of activity and lifestyle... it is quite important. 

  • SWDC

    Any study done to show the effects on the lungs of riding a bike in "bad air" as in Washington DC when the air is rated code orange and not good for the elderly and children to go out in?..or next to and by an urban airport again like Reagan National Airport in Virginia just outside of Washington DC? Understand those near airports can actually see the accumulation of blacken soot and a film from airplane engines on their cars, boats, and homes and can not be healthy to ride a bike and breathing in such air into the lungs.

  • cycleguy55

    It has been my experience that most people think "motorcycle" when they hear the term "bikers" or "biking". As such, they may never go further than the headline when, in fact, further reading would clearly indicate the true context of the article.

    This may never happen but, to avoid confusion and/or misunderstanding, I'd prefer general use of the terms "cycling" and "cyclist" or even "bicycling" and "bicyclist".

  • six7

    I see what you're saying, but I think it depends on where you come from. Say bike in Minneapolis and, because of the culture, it's automatically assumed as 'bicycle'.  

  • Rome Qs

    Strange, as a motorcyclist, most people think I mean bicycle when I say "biker" or "bike."  Then again I really don't look like a chopper rider. Maybe you look like a motorcyclist?

  • six7

    Minneapolis gets honorable mention with a 79 bike score... that's better scoring than Portland. But unfortunately misses qualification with ~400,000 people. 

  • Sarah

    I'm from rural MN, but spend a lot of time in Minneapolis - biking and not - and was wondering about this. I mean - the greenway!!! :)