What makes a city “best” for bicyclists? It depends on whom you ask.
For some, “best” equals the amount of time it takes you to get to work and back as compared to, say, a car, bus or train. I used to bike from 105th Street and West End Avenue to 51st and Lex in 30 minutes, for example, during rush hour. By subway it took two trains and about an hour, and that’s if the trains were running on time.
Other people might say a city is “best” if you can bike to a coffee shop, lock your unit, go in, drink and come out and your bike is still there.
Do accident statistics determine which city is “best?” Some bicyclists go down more than others no matter which city they’re in. Are there places where you can get a flat fixed or a chain replaced if you can’t do it yourself? Is your city a bit gritty, with character and characters, flavor and a thriving arts scene? For me, bicycling’s more fun in boho districts than through Jane and John Q. Blandville.
Now, I give you the five “best” American cities in which to ride, and of course if you have a favorite US city to ride in, write and tell us what and why.
Despite its unbelievably cold winters, Minneapolis after thaw is a delightful, kaleidoscopically green space with lots of outdoor opportunities for fun and exercise. There are miles of off-street bikeways which, when properly learned, can carry you the 20-30 miles in and around the city. In 2016 the city approved a “complete streets” program prioritizing those on foot, cyclists, buses and cars – in that order. They’re also recently completed $15 million dollars in resurfacing and reconstruction, with $1 million allotted for protective bike lanes.
San Francisco is rightly taking a lot of heat for its not only sky-high housing costs but a serious homeless problem as well as a rash of bike thefts. Despite this, if you’re the type of cyclist who loves blasting their thighs, San Francisco’s hills will do the job for you while providing stunning, vivid views in different nabes.
It’s also bike-progressive. Just a few short years ago there weren’t any designated bike lanes. Now the city’s got loads of protected lanes, and is continuing to invest in more of the same. San Francisco’s history, too, is rich and colorful and it’s a great place to see on two wheels as long as you keep an eye on your bike if you go inside.
Seattle’s similar to San Francisco in that they’re weathering an affordable housing crisis and resulting homelessness, but it’s hard to beat their heartrate-healthy steep hills and protected bike lanes with concrete buffers, further insuring protection from errant auto drivers. Its West Lake Cycle Track was selected as “best bike facilty in North America” by People For Bikes.
New Orleans installed their first bike lane in 2008 and now boasts 20 miles of shared-use pathways, 45 miles of traditional lanes and 4.5 miles of protected bike lanes. The city also opened the 2.6 mile long trail, Lafitte Greenway, connecting the French Quarter and Mid City. While not a biker-perfect city yet according to the criteria of some, there are a few biker clubs who meet on a weekly basis and tour the city, which is brimming with history, music, colorful characters and non-stop activity.
It’s flat, has miles of bike paths and lanes and is consistently voted “one of the most bike-friendly cities in America.” In the winter you’ll be blown sideways by the ferocious wind, but the city built 100 miles of bike lanes there in 2015 and there’s also a Monday night ride where as many as 250 bikers get together and explore the city and surrounding suburbs – from 11 PM until dawn, which is the “best” time to roll through a city unless you use your bike strictly for commuting during daylight hours.