Salt Lake City and Boise Scored as Bikeable on BikeScore Ranking

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By Charles Pekow –

Cycling West - Cycling Utah Magazine logoDozens of cities are more friendly to cyclists than the biggest ones in Utah and Idaho – at least by one count. The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) ranks states and cities on their bicycle

friendliness and tells us how many businesses go out of their way to promote cycling. But another group that doesn't specialize in cycling per se has done a city ranking. Walk Score, a division of Redfin, a national real estate firm, rated 154 largest American cities by their bikeability on a 100 point scale.

Salt Lake City ranked #32, with a score of 68.5. – putting it just below the top 20 percent; not too shabby, really. And despite containing the second-most-LAB-approved bicycle friendly businesses of any city in the nation, Boise ranked #46 with a score of 62.9 in Redfin's list. The cities fell way behind #1 snowy Cambridge, MA (92.8), #13 hilly San Francisco 75.1) and #14 rainy Eugene, OR (74.3). Since Walk Score ranked only the cities that provided it with adequate information about their bike routes, so it couldn't rate Provo, Ogden or any other city in Utah or Idaho, explains the study's author, Rachel Musiker, Redfin senior communications specialist.

Walk Score sees its mission as promoting walkability and related lifestyle features such as bikeablity and public transit access so it can show how livable real estate listings are. It provides data to governments, planners, bankers and others on neighborhood data. It can let you know, for instance, about the number of bike share stations in the neighborhood you're thinking of moving into. Redfin bought Walk Score last October and uses the research to help home seekers know how easy it is to get around their neighborhoods by foot, pedal, bus or train.

“We've been hearing from Redfin agents across the country that a lot of potential clients want to look at homes in close proximity to bike lanes and if they're looking for condominiums, they're looking for a place with a room where they can safely lock their bike,” Musiker said in an interview.

Walk Score adopted its Bike Score methodology from its walking one. It uses criteria that consider infrastructure but not bike culture. It equally ranks four factors: bike lanes, topography (specifically the hilliness of a neighborhood or city, something hardly in the control of occupants or governance), connectivity of bike paths, and the percentage of people who commute to work by bike.

Only Cambridge (92.8) got ranked a Biker's Paradise where “daily errands can be accomplished on a bike,” which requires a score of 90. Twenty-four other cities got ranked Very Bikeable where “biking is convenient for most trips, which requires a score of 70.” Salt Lake City just missed and was ranked Bikeable, since it contains “some bike infrastructure.” Boise got the same grade, which requires a score of 50. But if it's any consolation, 58 cities didn't even get that rank and were deemed Somewhat Bikeable, with “minimal bike infrastructure.”

Walk Score ranked 23 Salt Lake City neighborhoods by bikeability. Only Central City was labeled a “Biker's Paradise” with a 91 score, with second place Central City-Liberty Wells scoring “Very Bikeable” at 88. The further away from downtown you go, the less bikeable the city becomes. Arcadia Heights (East of Foothill Blvd. by I-80) finished last, scoring only 29 as it “does not have many bike lanes.”

Walk Score does not consider bike share data or parking. It considers mileage and gives different weight to the type of bike facility. But it acknowledges that its method lacks precision because cities can define facilities differently (separate bike lanes, cycletracks, off-road trials or shared lanes with bike route signs) and conditions and safety vary. While Bike Score considers the percentage of bicycle commuters, it does not count the number of recreational or other rides or riders. Nor does it consider what governments, the business community, advocates or anyone else is doing. “We don't have a way of taking advocacy into account,” Musiker says.

The top five cities nationally all included major university campuses: (Cambridge; Santa Cruz, Davis and Berkeley in California; Boulder, CO).

LAB ranked Salt Lake City as a Silver level Bicycle Friendly Community. Boise does not appear on LAB's list, though Ada County, in which it lies, also earned Silver rank. A big difference in the approaches is that in its various rankings, LAB looks at local culture and the business community and Walk Score looks only at how well residential areas feature bike facilities.

For the full rankings, see https://www.redfin.com/research/uncategorized/2015/bike-score-2015-supplemental-data-full-ranking-and-new-cities.html

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