June 26, 2021 — Getting around on a bicycle is becoming more and more popular. People use their bikes to get to work, for exercise, or just for fun. Biking is inexpensive transportation, gets you outside, parking is a cinch, and it’s a healthy activity. The growing popularity of electric bikes, with the extra help they provide on long rides and hills, has helped to get even more people into cycling. So, just as they do for every popular activity, publications are coming out with lists of the cities and towns that are “best for biking”. We will highlight some of their choices here.
But first, what makes for a great biking town? The website Lawnstarter used a long list of considerations to score and rank the largest 200 U.S. cities on biking. Their multiple rating criteria fell into five categories: climate, bike lanes and routes, bike shops and bike share programs, safety, and community support. Safety features like bike lanes separated from car traffic and dedicated crossings were among the most important considerations, since biking isn’t fun and can be dangerous if speeding cars get too close. Icy cold winter weather, steamy hot summers, and car traffic were negative factors used in the ratings. PeopleforBikes.com rated even more towns, including smaller ones, to find out which are the best for biking. It used similar criteria to rate the towns it considered, such as the number of bike lanes and trails, ability to use multiple routes to get to the same place, bike parking, number of bike shops, safety, and slow speeds for cars. See video below from PeopleforBikes on what makes a best biking city. When you are checking out places to retire, don’t forget to keep your eyes open to what it would be like if you wanted to get around there on two wheels.
Lawnstarter’s top 10 list of the best large U.S. cities for biking included at least one surprise, and that was its #1, San Francisco. The western part of the U.S. dominated the list; only 2 of the top 10 were east of the Mississippi River.
- San Francisco (CA). Chosen despite its fabled steep hills, it has many bike commuters and is tied for the most miles of bike lanes.
- Portland (OR). Has the highest number of bike commuters.
- Fort Collins (CO). Is #3 for numbers of bike commuters.
- Eugene (OR). Besides great bike paths it has a really high percentage of people who get to work by bicycle.
- Minneapolis (MN). Is #5 on overall bike score.
- Seattle (WA). Ranked #4 for bike access.
- Washington (DC). The nation’s capital has great bike lanes and large numbers of bike commuters.
- Salt Lake City (UT). Visit here and you will see bicyclists riding all over the city.
- Boise (ID). Folks who live here are active. The city gets high bike ratings across the board.
- Boston (MA). Has one of the best rankings for bike safety, and some of that comes from its old streets with low speed limits.
Although there will be some people who want to retire to a very large city, many more would probably prefer a small or medium sized city, small town, or active adult community. To help with that we have selected some of the smaller cities that offer great biking. The 4 on this list came from PeopleforBikes’s rankings of small cities with populations under 50,000.
Provincetown (MA). One of the nicest things about biking in this tiny coastal town is the amazing network of bike trails that connect to and run for miles through the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Traverse City (MI). All kinds of safety features are present in Traverse City’s network of bike trails. Outside of town you can go long distances on dedicated bike paths. Transit system buses have bike racks.
Pella (IA). This small college town (Central College) with Dutch roots is compact and offers stress-free biking. The Volksweg Trail is a 17-mile asphalt path that extends from the town to Lake Red Rock, Iowa’s largest lake.
San Luis Obispo (CA). Another college town (Cal Poly), its bike-friendly features include traffic calming techniques and many miles of bike lanes.
These are some of the higher ranking small and medium sized cities from the Lawnstarter rankings: (# is their ranking)
Tempe, AZ (#13)
Madison, WI (#17)
St. Petersburg, FL (#23)
Pittsburgh, PA (#46)
Alexandria, VA (#55)
Long Beach, CA (#57)
Providence, RI (#65)
For further reading:
Comments? Are you looking for a place where you can enjoy a biking lifestyle? If so, have you found some that are particularly good at it? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.