Monday, August 18, 2014

The Top 10 Bike-Friendly Cities in the U.S.

[Clean Air Watch periodically publishes guest posts of possible interest.  Today's guest post is by Holly Chavez]

The Top 10 Bike-Friendly Cities in the U.S.

America’s love affair with automobile transportation is dwindling, and conscientious people are looking to find alternatives to using their vehicles. Many government officials and private organizations, such as the Cascade Bicycle Club in Seattle, are taking notice of the trend and constantly working to upgrade city streets and park trails to accommodate cyclists. Here are the 10 top cities that extend a friendly welcome and show support for bike riding within their borders.
Chicago, Illinois

In addition to being better for the environment, bike riding has numerous health benefits. Americans are taking advantage of this environmentally-friendly way of travel by trekking across the United States. Whether you ride along a nature trail, or take a cruise along the lake front, Chicago is a bike-friendly place to visit. The city officials have even paved the way for better trails and initiated a CDOT (Chicago Department of Transportation) Divvy Bikes sharing program – which is easy to use and promotes healthy exercise.

Washington D.C.

While bike riding can be a great way to get around, you need to use extreme caution when navigating through regions such as Washington D.C. A bike helmet and protective gear can make your ride safer and more enjoyable, especially when commuting through this heavy pedestrian community. With more than 300 stations, Metro D.C.’s Capital Share bike program is affordable, and there’s always a close place to pick up and return your bike. It’s a great way to explore all the historic sites, without having to pay for parking or deal with maneuvering your way through 1-way or blocked streets.

San Francisco, California

Obeying traffic signals and riding safely is important for cutting down on accidents and injuries. This especially holds true in hilly regions such as San Francisco. The city’s efforts are focused on keeping bikes a main method of transportation. The police and local government places great emphasis on bike safety, and they also take pride knowing that over 75% of their morning riders are dedicated to commuting by bike.

Boulder, Colorado

Over 90% of Boulder’s community can be navigated via bike. The city’s phenomenal Valmont Bicycle Park consists of a 40-acre space dedicated to dirt jumps, trails and racecourses. With a cost of $1.2 million, half of the funds were paid by the city, and the rest came from supportive private donors.  Whether you’re training for a specific event, commuting to work or just out for a relaxing ride, you’re sure to notice the Boulder biking culture.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

This City of Lakes exceeded Portland as the #1 biking community in 2010. While you would think that the weather conditions aren’t necessarily conducive to biking, in fact the topography is ideal to the sport. The flat surface, trails and bike paths contribute to its top ranking. The Cyclopath is an interactive map for cyclists and covers the areas of Minneapolis, St. Paul and seven nearby metro county areas. Cyclists can share their experiences, update roads and paths information, and even record their personal ‘bikeability’ ratings.

Austin, Texas

While they may not have as many local bike owners as Chicago and Minneapolis, the weather and bike attitude certainly make up for it in Austin. The city’s mindset is focused on paved trails and bike lanes to help promote a more friendly biking community. Austin has been designated by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition of Canada (in partnership with the Washington based League of American Bicyclists) as a Silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community for 2014.

New York City, NY

NYC created the first bike path in the United States in 1894. With over 10,000 bicycles and 600 stations, it’s an aesthetically pleasing biking oasis. Organizations such as Transportation Alternatives helped to heighten the bike-riding craze by distributing rider safety and etiquette pamphlets to the public. Bicycle enthusiasts can also enjoy the largest recreational cycling event in America, with NYC’s annual Five Boro Bike Tour. Over 30,000 cyclists participate in this fun-filled 42-mile sojourn which takes place the first Sunday in May.

Seattle, Washington

Seattle has an interesting success story regarding their master plan for biking options in the city. The Cascade Bicycle Club, an organization with 14,000 members and 80,000 supporters, grew tired of waiting on sluggish government officials to implement the biking plan. They took the reins and successfully lobbied to elect officials who helped push through green infrastructure, scores of healthy bike trail options and even some fun events. Projects Seattle offerings which help support cyclists include the two-way cycle track on Broadway.

Springfield, Missouri

Springfield’s going bike-friendly, and there are always lovely places for pedal cyclists to enjoy nature and make their way to work safely. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released information highlighting statistics of bicycling accidents nationwide, and Springfield registered as a very safe city in which to ride your bike. In fact Springfield and all other cities combined in Missouri came in at a very low 0.2% of the total resident population on the survey. Compare that to over 5% in Delaware and over 4% in Florida.

Staying Safe

While most cities give bike riders the same right of way and driving rights when they are pedaling around in traffic, it’s still not very safe to get on the same stretch of road where vehicles are whizzing by you at 45 miles per hour. Cyclists are certainly at high risk of being struck by cars - hit and run dangers always exist and will also give a city a poor rating when it comes to bike riding. You may not realize that in a case where the driver of the car failed to make contact with you, and caused you to swerve to avoid a collision, they can still be held liable if you were injured as a result.

The above 10 bike-friendly communities are dedicated to safety and building a better bike-happy community As people become more environmentally conscious about the world they live in, their modes of transportation are kinder to Mother Nature. By leaving your car at home, you can do your part to ensure a cleaner, healthier and less polluted future for the children of tomorrow. There many streets in our communities already that would be perfect for bike riders already. Trouble is…they’re full of cars right now.

Holly Chavez telecommutes because she enjoys working at home and likes the fact that she can do her part to lower the carbon footprint.  She supports the Arizona Bike Club, an organization that she volunteers for, which helps promote bike riding and the infrastructure it supports.

Photo Source: © Lsantilli - 

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