Thinking about taking your bike out for a spin? Chances are your commute will be a lot smoother if you live in the western U.S. compared to, say, the south. The League of American Bicyclists has released their annual rankings of the most bike-friendly states in the U.S. on a 0-to-100 point scale. Washington sits first on the list with 66.2 points while Alabama is dead last with 12.3 points.
The rankings are based on a questionnaire that's answered by each state's Bicycle Coordinator and examines the following "bikability" categories: legislation and enforcement, policies and programs, infrastructure and funding, education and encouragement, and evaluation and planning. This translates to bike lanes and paths, safety laws, leaders who promote cycling tourism, etc.
Impressively, the Evergreen State has held onto the top spot since the organization kicked off its yearly rankings in 2008, making the state an eight-time consecutive champ. However, the league suggested that the state not get too complacent.
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"Although Washington State has been number one for the past eight years, the gap between number two [Minnesota, 62.7 points] and number three [Delaware, 54.8 points] has steadily decreased since 2013," the league said.
The league gave Washington, as well as the other 49 states, some feedback on how to encourage more people to get on their bikes on their "report card" section. For Washington, one suggestion was that their State Department of Transportation should "build upon its past successes by increasing staff capacity for planning, engineering, and implementation of solutions that make bicycling and walking safer and more convenient."
For bottom-ranked Alabama, which dropped from 17.4 points last year, one suggestion read, "Alabama has a high rate of bicyclist fatalities. Ensure that bicycle safety is a major emphasis in all transportation projects, programs and policies to address this issue."
So what makes a state bike-friendly? There are several factors, the League notes, including:
- There is a designated Transportation Alternatives program manager and the state bicycle and pedestrian coordinator works full-time on biking and walking issues.
- State office buildings, state park and recreation facilities, and other state facilities are required to provide bicycle parking.
- People on bikes and pedestrians have access across all major bridges and tunnels.
- There are increased penalties injuring or killing vulnerable road users, including bicyclists.
- Speed limits can be 20mph or lower.
- It is illegal for drivers to drive distracted or use a handheld cell phone or to text while driving.
- Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funds are spent promptly on bicycling and walking projects, and not transferred.
- The tourism board actively promotes bicycle tourism.
- There are few bicyclist fatalities.
- The state has up to date statewide bicycle and pedestrian plans and is making progress towards implementing them.
- Bicycles are allowed on Amtrak trains, regional passenger rail and state operated buses.
- The state has a Share the Road campaign and a Share the Road driver training for state employees.
It's also important for states to sponsor initiatives and awareness campaigns to promote biking. Wired noted how Massachusetts (which shot up to fourth place after coming in 10th last year) launched a GreenDOT program that aims triple the amount of walking, bicycling and public transit use in the state between 2010 and 2030 as a health and environmental sustainability initiative.
“We really saw them step up and commit to biking, walking being an important part of their transportation system,” Ken McLeod, a legal specialist who worked on the rankings, told Wired.
Hopefully, other states will further develop initiatives to get people to ditch four wheels for two. Besides, more people are biking than ever. In an previous post, we mentioned that bike commuting has boomed 60 percent in the last decade, making it the fastest-growing mode of transportation.
The top 10 most bike-friendly states are listed below. If your state isn't on the list, click on this link to see the complete rankings.
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