Jul 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

American cities have a lot to learn about bike friendliness

Image of the world's largest bicycle parking garage in Utrecht, Netherlands
The world's largest bike parking garage in Utrecht, Netherlands. Photo by Abdullah Asiran/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

More Americans have embraced bicycling since the pandemic, but in terms of bike-friendliness, the United States lags far behind Europe.

Why it matters: The best cities for bicycling have safe, comfortable and well-connected bike networks, according to People for Bikes, an advocacy group based in Boulder, Colorado. And its new international ranking of bike-friendly cities shows U.S. cities have a lot to learn from their European counterparts.

By the numbers: Five of the top 10 cities for bicycling are in the Netherlands, and all but one — Provincetown, Massachusetts — are in Europe.

  • The top 10 U.S. cities are mostly tourist spots (like Cape Cod's Provincetown) or college towns like Berkeley, California; Boulder, Colorado, and tiny Alma, Michigan.

Details: The rankings of 767 cities in 12 countries are based on a combination of two factors: a network score and a community score.

  • The network score — which accounts for 80% of a city’s overall score — looks at how easily cyclists can get to grocery stores, hospitals, jobs, schools and transit hubs using "low-stress routes" (streets with 25 mph or lower speed limits, or busier streets with protected bike lanes).
  • The community score — which accounts for the other 20% — is based on the results of an online survey of bike users.

The top-ranked city on the list is Utrecht, near Amsterdam, where more than one-third of the Dutch city's 360,000 residents commute on bikes.

  • It's home to the world’s largest bicycle parking garage, a three-story structure that holds more than 12,500 bikes.
  • Throughout the city, digital signs point riders to the nearest bike parking, including the number of available spots. And they're all free.

What they're saying: "Making biking better means more than just building bike lanes — it’s about improving the entire bicycling experience. Massive investments in safe, convenient and free bike parking ensures riders are prioritized on and off their bikes," according to a People for Bikes blog post.

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