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A roundup of America’s most bike-friendly cities

Remember when you turned 16 and you couldn’t wait to ditch your bike for a brand new car? We sure do. But now that we know about the devastating effects our cars have on the environment, many of us are starting to downsize from four wheels to two.

One of the best ways to lower your environmental impact is by swapping your gas-guzzling car for a bike. Over the last 15 years or so, bicycling has become a popular way for city dwellers to get around town. In fact, a recent survey of 55 major U.S. cities shows that bicycle-commuting rates increased by an average of 70% between 2000 and 2009.

One of the best ways to lower your environmental impact is by swapping your gas-guzzling car for a bike.

In response to bicycling’s growing popularity, many U.S. cities have taken special measures to show their support. Protected bike lanes, bike-share programs, and even specific traffic signals for cyclists have begun popping up all over the country – and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. Here are the top five bike-friendly cities that have taken the initiative to make cycling safe and fun for residents.

Ranking was determined by the percentage and growth of bike commuters as well as the quality of cycling infrastructure in each city, among other factors. 

 1)   New York City

Population: 8,336,697 

Bike Safety Score: 6.4 (Number of fatalities per 10,000 commuters)

In a city where fewer than half the residents own cars, it makes sense that biking would be ultra-popular. Thanks to an ambitious plan by former mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City now has over 350 miles of new bike lanes – many of which are barricaded from speeding cars by concrete dividers and parking lanes.

Must-do biking event

The NYC Century Bike Tour allows riders to tour Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx by bicycle.

 2)  Chicago

Population: 2,714,856

Bike Safety Score: 3.9 (Number of fatalities per 10,000 commuters)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has a vision to make Chicago the most bike-friendly city in America. With the Windy City coming in at number two on the list – it looks like New York will have some competition in the upcoming years. After all, Chicago already boasts over 200 miles of on-street bike lanes, 36 miles of trails, and more bicycle parking than any other city in the U.S.

 Must-do biking event

Bike the Drive gives thousands of cyclists the chance to cruise along iconic Lake Shore Drive without the distraction of cars and buses.

 3)    Minneapolis

Population: 392,880

Bike Safety Score: 2.3 (Number of fatalities per 10,000 commuters)

You might be surprised to learn that Minneapolis, with an average January temperature of 15.6°F, is the third most bike-friendly city in America. We were, too. But then we found out that the city has one of the country’s biggest bike-share systems per resident, and that learn-to-ride classes have spread the city’s bike culture far and wide.

Must-do biking event

Powderhorn 24 is an all-day team bike race held in South Minneapolis. Don’t think you can ride for 24 hours? No worries. You can split the journey with a group of friends.

 4)   Portland, Oregon

Population: 603,106
Bike Safety Score: 1.2 (Number of fatalities per 10,000 commuters)

For a city with the highest percentage of bike commuters in a large American city, its no surprise that there are big plans in place to make Portland an even better place to ride. Today, there are 319 miles of bikeways in Portland, and more than 50 additional miles will be installed over the next few years. The city also features bike-specific traffic signals in numerous intersections to improve safety.

 Must-do biking event

The weeklong Pedalpalooza event draws thousands of participants to hundreds of events and themed bike rides (think Sound of Music sing-along).

 5)   Washington D.C.

Population: 623,323
Bike Safety Score: 1.1 (Number of fatalities per 10,000 commuters)

Washington D.C. has about 70 miles of bike lanes, but only five miles are protected from traffic. However, things are moving in the right direction. The DDOT expects to add seven additional miles of bike lanes in Washington this year. Plus, the District has instituted its own bike-sharing program called Capital Bikeshare, which utilizes over 1,500 bicycles across 165+ stations.

Must-do biking event

The Greenbelt training race series in Greenbelt Park is held weekly in the spring and summer, taking cyclists on a 1.4-mile loop through the park.

*All data taken from the 2014 survey on Bicycling.com.

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Kate Kasbee
Kate Kasbee is a blogger and freelance copywriter living in Los Angeles. She has a background in real estate marketing and has also written about a variety of subjects including pet care, how to adopt a vegan diet, and technology. Prior to living in sunny California, Kate spent eight years in Chicago where she lived in nine different apartments in five different neighborhoods. Though she’s not quite done exploring, Kate dreams of planting her roots and owning a home with creaky floors and plenty of land for starting an organic farm.
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