Most Americans navigate their city by car, public transportation, or their own two feet, but they're missing out on a healthy, cost effective, and environmentally friendly way to travel.
Riding a bicycle — an activity largely associated with childhood — is now a common form of transportation in major American cities. Cycling has grown in popularity across the United States, but efforts to accommodate cyclists haven't spread evenly across all cities.
The East and West coasts are some of the best places to ride a bike, with many bikeways and trails for cyclists to cruise, according to a new Semya-Moya survey ranking the 50 best bike cities in the U.S.
In other cities, particularly those in the South, cyclists are just trying to avoid being clipped by oncoming traffic.
Top 10 Bike-Friendly Cities in the U.S.
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Portland, Oregon
- San Francisco, California
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Washington, D.C.
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- San Jose, California
- Denver, Colorado
- Seattle, Washington
- Providence, Rhode Island
In Minneapolis, miles of bike paths and ample bike share docking stations
America’s top cycling city is cold, snowy Minneapolis. Minneapolis might not have year-round sunshine, but residents who are willing to bundle up can enjoy 2.6 bike trails per 100,000 residents — a whopping 42% more than the average city.
"Over the years, the city has been embracing better, safer bicycling infrastructure and gradually transitioning streets from faded sharrows to buffered bike lanes to protected lanes," said Natalie Wagner, vice chair of the Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee.
It’s not only easy to get around by bike in Minneapolis, it’s easy to find a bike. Minneapolis is blessed with nearly four times the number of bike share docking stations and 37% more bike shops than the average city.
Even in a cyclist's paradise, there’s room for improvement. Wagner said she hopes infrastructure for safe bicycle parking increases in commercial and residential neighborhoods.
"I want biking to be an easy option for new cyclists," she said.
In addition to protected bike lanes and trails, the City of Lakes has lowered its speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph to reduce the threat to cyclists, said Casper Hill, a spokesman for the City of Minneapolis.
In the future, Hill said Minneapolis plans to further extend its network of neighborhood greenways and improve winter maintenance practices for year-round usability in a wintry climate.
"The best bike city recognition is great," Hill said, "but we aren’t done yet."
Portland loses top spot — despite bike shops, bike commuters
For cyclists who want to move to another bicycle-friendly city with a less frigid climate, Portland is the second-best bike city in America — falling from the No. 1 spot in 2022.
Portland may have ceded the top spot, but it still has the highest percentage of bicycle commuters in the country, with 1.1% of employees biking to work every morning.
Compared to the average American city, Portland has 61% fewer fatal crashes involving cyclists. It’s no wonder the people of Portland are more likely to commute to work by bike.
Portland also has three times more bike shops than the average city, with 3.5 per 100,000 residents, and three times more bike share docking stations, with 9 per 100,000 residents.
Washington, D.C., is the capital of cycling infrastructure
Washington, D.C., is the most bikeable city in America with a spectacular bikeability score of 92 out of 100.
Capital Bikeshare, the country's first bike share program, has played an important role in boosting the District's score. Over the past 13 years, the program has spurred the construction of more than 100 miles of bike lanes and the installation of nearly 2,000 bike racks.
Such extensive cycling infrastructure makes the District one of the safest places to ride a bike. D.C. records 59% fewer fatal crashes involving cyclists than the average American city.
In Denver, there's mile high enthusiasm for cycling
You know the Denver stereotypes: hiking, breweries, cannabis and…biking? According to Clever, bicycling is a Denver-certified hobby. In fact, the city ranks No. 1 in overall Google search activity for bike-related terms.
Denver residents search for the phrases "bicycle," "mountain bike," "bike trails," and "cycling" on Google more than residents in any other city. Plus, Denver residents don’t have to head into the Rocky Mountains to enjoy a good ride. Denver’s bikeability score of 72 out of 100 is 16 points higher than the average of 56.
Despite effort and investment, Memphis ranks as the worst American city for cyclists
Memphis has earned the ignominious designation as the worst U.S city for cyclists, even though the city has made strides to become more bike friendly.
Memphis’ cycling woes hinge on its low bikeability score and high rate of cyclist-involved fatal crashes. The city's fatal crash rate is 21% higher than the rate in the average U.S. city.
Memphis dropped four spots from Clever's 2022 ranking, which is undoubtedly frustrating for a city that has, for a decade, made real and substantial efforts to improve its bikeability. However, it still lags behind the rest of the country.
Nicholas Oyler, who spent nearly a decade as the bikeway and pedestrian program manager for the City of Memphis, disagrees with the city's distinction as America’s worst bike city.
"Since 2010, Memphis has grown its bikeway network from less than 1 mile of bike lanes to over 300 miles of on- and off-street facilities," said Oyler, who is now a planning manager for an architecture firm specializing in multimodal transportation.
Oyler said the city's investment in bike lanes started after Bicycle Magazine named Memphis the worst cycling city in the U.S. in 2008. Fifteen years and hundreds of new bike lanes later, Memphis still can’t pedal fast enough to keep up with the rest of the country.
Memphis’ inability to raise its cycling profile may actually be a positive sign for Americans who like life on two wheels. Even the worst American bike city still has hundreds of miles of bike lanes.