August 25, 2014 — More and more active baby boomers have discovered the joys of biking – whether it just getting around the neighborhood on 2 wheels, the occasional rail2trail expedition, or longer trips through the countryside or even across the country. Cyclists save gas, get healthy exercise, have time to experience the sights, and are kind to the planet at the same time. In fact battery-assisted bikes, which use batteries to help you get up hills or assist on longer trips, are one of the fastest growing products in many places. So it stands to reason that when it comes to retirement, you might want to look at a place that is friendly to bikers and biking in general.
What makes a bike-friendly town?
Here are some some of the characteristics for what we think makes a great biking town:
– Bike trails on city roads. Well-marked trails with good separation from cars make biking much safer and a lot more fun.
– Bike trails in parks. Sometimes these trails might be for street bikes, sometimes they might great mountain biking opportunities.
– Nearby rail to trail systems. Many abandoned railroad beds have been reclaimed as public bike or walking trails. They are usually very scenic, safe, and a wonderful alternative to biking on public roads.
– Traffic features that don’t discourage cyclists. If a town has lots of big highways with limited access, heavy traffic, complex intersections, or enormous hills or other obstacle, you might want to reconsider retiring there.
– Good public access to interesting mountain biking. Mountain biking can be a lot of fun but you need trails to do it. More and more towns great mountain biking trails are being discovered and created as the popularity of the sport grows. Ski resorts are keeping their lifts running all summer for bikers as a way to expand their season.
– Easy access to rental bikes. Many major cities now have amazing programs where you can rent a bike and return it just anywhere hours later. New York’s Citi Bike program has been a huge success, as have similar programs in many European cities. But even smaller towns can offer the casual cyclist a chance to get some biking in if there are bike shops in the town.
Great places for around town biking and commuting.
Minneapolis, Minnesota. This bike friendly town has 120 miles of on- and off-street bicycle trails and lanes. You can find indoor bike parking and other cycling-friendly facilities too.
Portland, Oregon. The City of Roses is exceedingly bike-friendly with almost 270 miles of street lanes and paths, set-off with nonskid paint. Not only does it have miles of really well-used bike lanes, it now has bike-oriented businesses springing up along those routes. Businesses like apartment houses, office buildings, bars, and more. There are also top-notch parks with trails; mountain and road biking are close. See this article about “Bike-Friendly Businesses in Portland”. Of course you can also drive a short distance and enjoy top-notch mountain or road biking.
Charlevoix, Michigan. We love this boating destination on Lake Michigan, famous for many things including its 26 mile lake and woods rail-to-trail known as the Bike Path.
Key West, Florida. Key West is a bike kind of town – a car is not required in Key West. The most popular bikes are cruisers with big fat tires, comfortable seats, and baskets for cargo. They are built for comfortable rides and bringing home the groceries.A great 1 to 2 hour cycle is to circumnavigate the entire island, with views of the bay on one side and ocean beaches on the other.
Eugene, Oregon. As you might expect, the home of Nike is really nuts about biking, running, trails, and parks. Just outside of town is every kind of biking as well.
Austin, Texas. This is after all, the hometown of Lance Armstrong. The city has a plan for incorporating bicycles into all new projects. It is rated high for biking.
Columbia Missouri. Another college town (University of Missouri and others), Columbia is a Money Magazine Best Town with bike paths and bike-friendly ambiance
Long Beach, California. One of the greatest bike paths is the one that goes for miles along the beach. It’s paved and great for exercise and people watching. On top of that, Long Beach is considered a very walkable city as well.
Chicago, Illinois. Chicago is of course a huge city, but biking is possible and enjoyable most of the year. A 18 mile trail system winds through parks along the waterfront, and another goes all the way to the Mississippi River and back (537 miles!)
Boulder, Colorado. For many cyclists, Boulder is a biking dream. City parks and trails flourish in a town that celebrates being green and athletic. Mountain biking begins within the city limits.
Burlington, Vermont. Home to the University of Vermont and on the shores of beautiful Lake Champlain, Burlington is close to a famous mountain bike trail called “The International”. Big-time mountain bikers train and race here, although like most places in Vermont, it seems like everybody is an athlete out on their bike.
Comments. Is the biking especially good where you live? What are you looking for in a bike friendly town? Please tell us about it in the Comments section below.