We’re pleased to release the 2019 PlacesForBikes City Ratings. Overall this year we saw a much higher rate of participation in our Community Survey and City Snapshot. This means we collected better data and have an improved picture of bicycling in the United States.
“We focused this year’s efforts on engaging more cities to improve accuracy of ratings,” says Jennifer Boldry, PeopleForBikes director of research. “Better accuracy provides a more valuable tool that helps cities benchmark, set goals and measure progress.”
There’s a diverse mix of cities in our top 20 list, which signals that progress is being made across the board. We also see more cities pedaling toward a score of 4 out of 5 stars, which means that places are likely improving in several areas.
We created the PlacesForBikes City Ratings system to be transparent and fully data-driven, so that any community can look directly at its strengths and weaknesses and know how to improve.
The PlacesForBikes City Ratings uses a scoring system to rank cities based on five key areas: Ridership (how many people ride bikes?), Safety (how safe is it to ride bikes?), Network (how easy is it for people to get where they need to go?), Acceleration (how fast is the bike network expanding?) and Reach (how well the network serves all neighborhoods in the community).
“Our City Ratings play an important role in furthering PeopleForBikes’ mission to make bike riding better for everyone across the U.S,” says PeopleForBikes president Tim Blumenthal. “Providing annual ratings helps cities make quick, cost-effective progress toward building a network where people of all ages and bicycling abilities can ride safely and easily to destinations all around town.”
The 2019 PlacesForBikes City Ratings top five:
Boulder, Colorado (3.74)
Fort Collins, Colorado (3.64)
Eugene, Oregon (3.43)
Manhattan, New York (3.39)
Arlington, Virginia (3.37)
What makes our top cities great places for biking?
Some commonalities we see among those cities at the top of our ratings are, complete bike networks that separate bikes from cars, infrastructure designed to improve safety for all road users and popular programming that encourages bicycling for everyone in the community.
According to Dave Kemp, Boulder’s Senior Transportation Planner, the city has been developing its bicycle network for over five decades. “The work continues to this day, as we refine the seamless integration between our on and off street bike network and strive to help cyclists feel more comfortable on all types of trips.”
This network includes multiple overpasses and underpasses, which allow people on bikes to avoid interactions with street traffic. Boulder also has several off-street bike paths that allow bikes and pedestrians a higher level of safety.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Coming in a close second is one of our Big Jump cities. Fort Collins has continued to put important bike infrastructure on the ground, and has also engaged the community. Implementing several “toucan crossings” is just one of the ways the city has gotten creative about their infrastructure. They’ve also added major corridors that better connect the network. Their recent Mulberry corridor added a center turn lane in addition to protected bike lanes. The space gained from the reduction of car lanes was used to increase the buffer between the sidewalk and travel lanes.
Baseline Underpass, Boulder, Colorado. Source: City of Boulder Transportation.
Eugene started building its network of bikeway back in the 1970s. Now they’re taking steps to update and connect them. Shane MacRhodes, Transportation Options Coordinator in Eugene says, “We already have high ridership from University of Oregon students, and are working to get more people biking for more trips more often.” And with one of the most robust Safe Routes to School programs in the nation, MacRhodes says, “[Eugene’s] school districts are working to make walking and biking better for all families.”
Manhattan, New York
This year we broke New York City’s five-boroughs into separate entities. It’s the only city in the ratings to be divided. We did so because NYC has so many borough-specific projects and advances, making it necessary. Manhattan added a tremendous amount of bike lanes, creating a much more complete network. They continue to boost their bikeshare stations, which makes biking an easy choice for transportation. Manhattan also takes the top slot in our Ridership score, which reflects how many people in the community ride bikes, for both recreation and transportation.
The Arlington County board just unanimously approved a plan that encourages more people to use bicycles as a mode of transportation. The plan includes more than 100 project concepts to help make Arlington a place where all people can feel safe and comfortable while bicycling. Eric Balliet, Communications Specialist for the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services says, “In the last year alone, as part of street repaving, the County created three different protected bike lanes and debuted its first contraflow bike lane, all of which help fill in gaps in the bike network.”
With a newly updated plan, Arlington’s bicycle transportation infrastructure is expanding and improving. On the horizon are new bike facilities, and the implementation of education aimed at creating a safer place to live. The plan also includes a new bikeshare, as well as dockless transportation options.
Stay tuned over the next several weeks as we take a closer look at more of our top cities.