Love ‘em or hate ‘em, cyclists play a key role in today’s urban dynamic. A handful of American cities have taken proactive measures to ensure cooperation between those who travel on two wheels, two axles and two feet. Others, on the other hand, have yet to embrace the bike movement to their potential – and earned a salty reputation among cyclists in the process.
Friendliest: Austin, Texas Austin has long enjoyed a bike-friendly reputation, and the eco-friendly college town continues to improve conditions for cyclists. The forthcoming (and unfortunately named) Lance Armstrong Bikeway will connect the city’s east and west sections, while the recently expanded Barton Creek Greenbelt now includes a 7-mile bike path that crisscrosses the downtown area. The Texan capital is also renowned as a mecca for bicycle shops; The Yellow Pages list more than 60 establishments within the city limits.
Friendliest: Boulder, Colo. Here’s an astonishing statistic: more than 95 percent of Boulder’s surface streets are accessible to cyclists. This equates to more than 370 miles of roadway. But the city hasn’t stopped there; large chunks of municipal funding have been allocated to recreational cycling areas, most notably Valmont Park – a 40-acre playground and stunt course that accommodates bikers of all ages and ability levels. Another major establishment, the Baseline Path project, is currently in development.
Friendliest: Minneapolis, Minn. In 2010, Bicycling magazine named the largest of the Twin Cities as the most bike-friendly city in the United States. Minneapolis boasts the second largest number of bike commuters, (more than 8,000 every day when the weather isn’t brutal), and this is largely thanks to the municipal government that recognized the growing trend. Today, there are roughly 84 miles of established bike trails between Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as 44 miles of designated bike lanes. The city is also home to a burgeoning bike-polo community, which ostensibly saves millions in equine veterinary bills (or so we guess).
Friendliest: Portland, Ore. As of 2012, Portland is the only American city of 100,000+ residents to earn coveted Platinum status from the League of American Bicyclists, and anyone who has cycled there knows why. The city is essentially a network of bike paths and lanes (totaling more than 250 miles of pavement) designed to not only protect cyclists, but also promote the eco-friendly practice among all locals – including low-income earners, thanks to the city’s Create-a-Commuter program. And did you know Portland was the first city to incorporate bike boxes at intersections and establish bike-friendly commuter trains for elementary schools? Yeah, we weren’t surprised either.
Friendliest: Seattle, Wash. The Emerald City may have slightly less cyclist clout than its sister city, Portland, but Seattle is a biker’s paradise in its own right. City officials have implemented measures such as reduced auto speed zones, numerous cul-de-sacs and ‘chokers’ to slow down curbside traffic. These retrofits complement Seattle’s 450 miles of designated bike lanes and trails quite nicely. And if you enjoy a grueling workout, the city’s imposing hills will burn your calories like the demons from hell that they are. Just, please, be careful.
Rudest: Dallas, Texas The second-largest city in Texas has long endured a fair amount of scorn from the nationwide cycling community. Bicycling has named Dallas as one of the rudest cities for bicycles on a regular basis. But an article that recently appeared in The Advocate hits home the “perils of Dallas Bike Culture” with actual quotes from anti-cycling residents. “Cyclists need to realize they are the odd man out,” said one Dallas woman. “And most of them need a large dose of humility and respect for motorized vehicles.” Ouch.
Rudest: Memphis, Tenn. Let’s face it: The River City doesn’t give a damn whether or not you like to cycle. For a long time, the city of Memphis did not have a single mile of designated bike lane, and municipal officials hindered construction by essentially ignoring all requests for bike-friendly paths. The city has designated some bike lanes within the last five years, but the climate hasn’t gotten much friendlier. When the city finally opened a residential section of Mclean Boulevard to cyclists, for example, all of the residents complained that the new lane robbed them of street parking – so now cyclists can only use the lane during daylight hours.
By Brad Nehring