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Bike to Work Day: Is Your City Cycle-Friendly?

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Bike to Work Day Summer 2017. City of Fort Collins / John Robson / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Today is Bike to Work Day, and while that sounds deceivingly simple—you know, hop on a bike and ride to work—your city might not be the best place to make that commute. For instance, how safe is it? Are there designated lanes? Does your town support bike culture?

Luckily, there's a way to find out if you should leave your car keys or metro card at home today. The nonprofit PeopleForBikes launched a new database that rates the bike-ability of 480 cities in the U.S.


The rating system is based on five factors, as PeopleForBikes's website details:

  • The "Ridership" score reflects how many people in the community ride bikes for both recreation or transportation.
  • The "Safety" score considers fatalities and injuries of people on bikes as well as those walking and driving. Perceptions of safety are also given weight.
  • The "Network" score evaluates the quality of the bike network, in how completely it connects people to each other and local destinations using comfortable routes.
  • The "Reach" score determines how well a community's low-stress network serves all members of the community. It uses demographic data to understand differences in access and connectivity for traditionally underserved populations compared to the whole city.
  • Finally, the "Acceleration" score assesses how quickly a community is improving its biking infrastructure and how successful its encouragement programs are at getting people to ride.

That last factor is important. As PeopleForBikes staff writer Michael Andersen noted in a blog post, while there are already many "best bike cities" lists out there, this new system lets communities identify their strengths and weaknesses so they can make positive changes that encourage more cycling.

"What gets measured gets done," PeopleForBikes research director Jennifer Boldry, Ph.D., who spent three years developing the rating system, said in the blog post. "I would love if this were a tool for cities to measure where they are and track their progress."

Here are the top 10 cities in the system:

Fort Collins, Colorado—which features hundreds of miles of bike lanes, more bikes than cars in its Downtown, a bike share program and many bicycling non-profit organizations—topped the rankings.

"This is a great honor and one that shows how important cycling is to our community," Mayor Wade Troxell said in a statement to the Coloradoan. "Our amazing cyclists and cycling infrastructure helps to make Fort Collins a wonderful place to enjoy and safely travel by bicycle."

PeopleForBikes also revealed the top five most bike-friendly cities by size.

That said, even though today is Bike to Work Day, it's always a great idea to bust out that bike whenever you can.

"When people ride bikes, great things happen: they get happier, healthier, richer, more equal and more connected to their communities," Andersen pointed out.

"Great things happen to those communities, too, even for people who never bike: less pollution, higher-capacity roadways, better mass transit, lower health care premiums, and local economies that have more money to invest in themselves."

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