Tourists ride bicycles on a newly constructed bike path near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California in 2012. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Why you can trust us
Founded in 2005 as an Ohio-based environmental journal, EcoWatch is a digital platform dedicated to publishing quality scientific content about environmental problems, causes and solutions.
Copenhagen and Amsterdam are famous for their vast cycle paths and hordes of cyclists, but some American cities are also on the bike bandwagon.
Transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and it’s clear that if we don’t reduce our car use, runaway climate change will only get worse. The World Health Organization finds that investments in policies that encourage cycling and walking are crucial for mitigating climate change and environmental protection. By choosing to bike above driving a car just once a day, the average person can reduce their transport-related carbon emissions by 67%.
These U.S. cities exemplify what human-powered transportation can look like. PeopleforBikes rates cities for their bikeability based on the number of people who cycle, the ease and safety of cycling, the extent of neighborhoods served by cycling infrastructure, and how quickly the cycling network expands. These ratings change a bit every year, but there are a few that are constantly jostling for top positions.
If you’re looking to plan a vacation somewhere where you can see the sights by bike, or pick your next location based on velocity, here are some of the most bike-friendly cities in the United States.
Take in views of the Rocky Mountains from a bike in Boulder. This city of more than 100,000 people took first place in PeopleForBikes’ 2019 ranking of the most bike-friendly cities in the United States, and going down its 300 miles of bike path, it’s easy to see why – not to mention that Boulder sees 300 days of sunshine a year. Throughout the city, you’ll see multi-use pathways separated from vehicular traffic and designated underpasses for cyclists and pedestrians. Boulder people are 20 times more likely to cycle to work than the average American, but if you get caught in the rain and need to hop on a local bus, the entire fleet has bike racks. Dozens of self-service kiosks across the city rent bikes, courtesy of bouldering bike.
The bicycle has a long history in Eugene. The town started assembly of cycle paths in 1972 at the request of the mayor (who was himself a cyclist). Today, it consistently ranks at the top of cycling city surveys and has been named Gold Level Certified Cycling Community by the League of American Cyclists. The city has a strong cycling culture – aided by decades-old community organizations like The Greater Eugene Area Runners – and has 46 miles of shared-use trails, 187 miles of on-street bikeways, and 71 miles of neighborhood bikeways/greenways. Their Safe Routes to Schools program is also making improvements to the walking/cycling infrastructure used by students to get to and from school, such as adding better bike lanes and creating safer crossing areas for cyclists and pedestrians.
Davis opened its first bike path in 1967 and has never looked back. Today, 98% of the city’s main streets have some sort of cycling infrastructure – including wide paths set back from the street and air pumps placed in the city’s main corridors – and with its good weather and relatively flat terrain, the high 13.8% cycle-trip rate is no surprise. THE the modal share of cycling in the city is around 20%, approaching the 25% of the Netherlands, an emblematic country favorable to cycling. If you need further proof of these high cycling rates, the Third Street Bike Counter displays a numerical readout of the number of cyclists passed that day, the day before, and the total for the year so far.
Davis even houses the United States Cycling Hall of Fame, and the non-profit organization Davis Bike Collective houses a public DIY store with tools for fixing bikes. Residents can register their bikes with the city through Bike Index, which helps identify lost or stolen bikes.
In 2017, 6.3% of Portlanders (more than 22,000 people) commuted by bicycle, representing the highest percentage of bicycle commuters of any major US city. Compared to the national percentage of 0.5%, it’s clear that Portland values velocity. Their cycling network is 385 miles in total – which includes greenways, cycle paths, trails and shared roads – with almost 100 more miles to be installed in the next few years. In total, the city’s bicycling infrastructure is valued at $60 million, and it is one of five U.S. cities to receive the League of American Bicyclists’ Platinum Level Bicycle Friendly Community certification, its highest designation.
The unofficial bike capital of the Midwest, Madison boasts that the city has more bikes than cars. He was named one of healthiest cities in the country in 2015 by Livability, thanks in part to its accessibility on foot and by bike. About 5% of residents commute by bicycle, and Madison BCycle allows visitors to experience bicycles at more than 40 locations across the city.
Brooklyn, New York
You might not expect a bustling, high-density city of 2.6 million to rank among the most bike-friendly cities, but PeopleForBikes Brooklyn ranks out of all other New York boroughs and 10th overall in the country.
On Hoyt Street in downtown Brooklyn – one of the busiest streets in the borough – bicycles now outnumber cars, according to the New York Times. Popular Citi bikes for rent are now ubiquitous and each day sees 450,000 bike trips across the city, 20% of which are made by commuters. Brooklyn itself has more than 300 km of cycle pathslanes and greenways – more than any other borough – and claims to be home to the original circa 1894 bikeway: the Ocean Parkway Bikeway, which stretches from Coney Island to Prospect Park.
Fort Collins, Colorado
This mid-sized northern Colorado city often ranks neck and neck with Boulder in national bike-friendly city rankings. With 200 miles of dedicated bike lanes, multi-use trails, bike lanes, and shared roads criss-cross virtually the entire city—all against a backdrop of the Rocky Mountain foothills—it’s another recipient of the coveted Platinum Level Bicycle Friendly Community certification. The city trails, however, are the real star of the show. The Poudre River Trail is 12 miles long and follows the Cache La Poudre River (a National Heritage Area), which runs through downtown and then connects to another 22-mile section of trail – and in typical Colorado fashion, the trail heads straight to some of the city’s many craft breweries. Mark your calendar for the city Bike Day to Work (or Anywhere) each year, where bikers can grab a free breakfast from local businesses and organizations across the city.
San Francisco, California
Regularly named one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, San Francisco is home to beautiful scenic bikeways like the Golden Gate Bridge Bike Path, as well as robust cycling infrastructure throughout the city. On average, 128,000 bicycle trips are made daily on 463 miles of bike pathand 16% of San Franciscans are “frequent cyclistsmeaning they cycle two or more days a week. SFMTA has a trip planner on their website where residents and visitors can enter their start and end points to find the best cycling route and rent a bike from one of the city’s 280 bike-share stations.