How Does Your City Rank for Bicycling?

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By Charles Pekow — Fort Collins and Boulder are the first and third best American cities to bike in respectively. That is, if you believe the new rankings from People for Bikes (PFB). But they – and every other ranked city – can still be much improved. Fort Collins ranked 3.5 on a five-point scale, while Boulder ranked 3.4. (Actually, Fort Collins scored a virtual tie for first with Wausau WI, a town of 39,138.)

Tucson, AZ ranked fifth, scoring 3.3. Colorado Springs finished 21st at 2.8; Denver 25th at 2.7; Crested Butte 30 at 2.6. Littleton, CO was 48th at 2.4. Colorado scored far ahead of any of the other Mountain West states, as no other city in the region landed in the top 50.

PFB ranked cities based on five criteria: ridership, network, safety, reach (into areas traditionally lacking bike structure) and acceleration (effort). PFB developed its own criteria, using federal and local government data and a Bicycle Network Analysis tool it developed. Criteria include examining existing and planned networks and a rider survey. PFB acknowledges the tool “is an evolving project.”

The rankings aim to reflect how many people ride, the number of injuries and fatalities, network connections, reach into underserved areas, and how well cities are improving. PFB ranked 480 municipalities across the country on its first round – it plans to do more but it costs money.

Rankings for other cities in the region show marked room for improvement:

Rexburg, ID: 2.2

Bozeman, MT: 2.2

Missoula, MT: 2.1.

Laramie, WY :2.1

Salt Lake City: 2.1

Lakewood, CO: 2.0

Steamboat Springs, CO: 1.9

Boise, ID 1.9

Jackson, WY: 1.9

Orem, UT: 1.9

Scottsdale, AZ: 1.8

Aurora, CO: 1.7

Henderson, NV: 1.7

Breckenridge, CO: 1.7

Billings, MT: 1.7

Casper, WY: 1.7

Tempe, AZ: 1.7

Reno, NV: 1.6

Richfield, UT: 1.6

Kalispell. MT: 1.6

Great Falls, MT: 1.5

Helena, MT: 1.5

Provo, UT: 1.5

Paradise, NV: 1.4

Wheat Ridge, CO: 1.4

Mesa, AZ: 1.3

Longmont, CO: 1.3

Avondale, AZ: 1.3

Carson City, NV: 1.3

Cheyenne, WY: 1.2

Chandler, AZ: 1.2

Thornton, CO: 1.2

Butte, MT: 1.2

Pocatello, ID: 1.2

Glendale, AZ: 1.2

Coeur D'Alene, ID: 1.2

West Jordan, UT: 1.1

Gillette, WY: 1.1

Peoria, AZ: 1.1

Meridian, ID: 1.1

West Valley City, UT: 0.9

Yuma, AZ: 0.9

Idaho Falls, ID: 0.8

Some cities got low scores because PFB lacked sufficient data to judge all they may be doing. PFB said, for instance, that it couldn't tell if regional booby prize winner Idaho Falls is doing anything to improve. The criteria don't seem to include mountain biking availability, of which the Idaho Falls areas seems loaded. The city does sponsor Bike Month and other events. We sent a missive to Dave's Bike Shop in Idaho Falls on Facebook asking about the ranking and got a reply saying “They are right. Idaho Falls is terrible. Nobody should come here to ride or liveYou're fine right where you are.”

Also, it's important to note that not all cities provided all needed information. Some also may have built better bike networks than the data show but haven't mapped them completely. These omissions would lower their rankings.

How do the rankings compare with the bicycle friendly community (BFC) rankings put out by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB)? The two differ in that BFC communities have to apply, bring staff from different departments together (education, engineering, etc.) and do a self-assessment. Those who do select themselves and are likely to have a strong bicycle culture in their government. On the other hand, PFB might rank you whether you want it or not.

In Colorado, top-ranked Fort Collins and Boulder have reached platinum status as a BFC, the highest rank any municipality has achieved yet. Crested Butte received gold and Denver silver. Littleton hasn't become a BFC. But low-ranked Longmont also reached silver status. Thornton and Wheat Ridge don't appear the BFC list. But in general, if Colorado is an indication, the two systems generally jive.

But in Montana, Missoula hit gold and Bozeman silver, though PFB ranks Bozeman slightly higher than Missoula. Lower-ranked Billings and Helena achieved bronze.

“Both organizations see our programs running well together. Their's is a quick snapshot. Ours is a much more in-depth look” at matters from traffic to staffing, explains Amelia Neptune, LAB's Bicycle Friendly America director. “We were in touch with their staff throughout the process as they developed the program.” PFB's city rankings can be especially helpful in taking a look at where infrastructure exists, Neptune suggests.

PFB says it plans to update the ratings annually. Check them out at goo.gl/CXYpeY.

 

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