An increasing number of Americans are leaving their cars at home and turning to their bicycles to get around. According to the League of American Bicyclists, from 2000 to 2013, the rate of people commuting by bicycles increased 62% nationwide.
People start riding bicycles for many reasons, including exercise, environmental concerns, and the cost saving benefits that come with avoiding constant trips to the gas station.
Yet the ability to begin cycling more regularly heavily depends on where one lives. Many American cities have gone to great lengths to promote bike-riding by taking steps such as installing bike lanes and implementing bike share programs. Others have neglected these measures, making it difficult for commuters to adopt cycling to their lifestyle.
24/7 Wall St. determined the best and worst cities in which to ride a bike by creating an index based on a number of metrics, including the amount of bike-friendly road miles, percentage of people commuting by bicycle, and cyclist fatality rates.
About 70% of fatal cyclist crashes occurred in urban areas. Because riding a bike is relatively more dangerous — and common — in large cities in particular, we limited our comparison to the 34 U.S. cities with populations of 500,000 or greater.
The majority of the best cities for riding a bike – such as Boston, Seattle, and Portland, OR – have cooler climates than most of the worst cities, including Phoenix, Houston, and Memphis, TN. Of course, there are exceptions such as Tucson, which is located south of Phoenix and is one of the best cities on our list. So while weather is not a defining factor in whether cities build biking infrastructures, temperatures clearly play a role in whether residents even desire to ride their bike under a blistering sun.
Many of the worst cities to ride a bike are making efforts to improve their standing. Of the 17 worst cities on our list, six recently announced plans for bike share programs. Eight of the worst cities already have programs of this kind, yet fail in other areas.