I like to ride my bicycle
July 11, 2005 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Where are the most bike-friendly places to live in the U.S.?

Inspired by Sinner's question, I wonder where some great places to live and bike are. I visited Fire Island a few weeks ago, which is a wonderful bike-and-pedestrian only community, with very limited car usage allowed, but it's mostly a seasonal place to live. NYC is bikable, but not pleasantly so and I have to admit I don't feel really safe on most of the roads on Manhattan.

What great places are out there for people who want a sustainable way of life as a cyclist?
posted by lorrer to Travel & Transportation (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Boulder, Colorado. Good urban bike routes and plenty of mountain biking nearby for the adventurous. But it's expensive to live here.
posted by carter at 5:09 PM on July 11, 2005

Porland, Oregon!

Portland does a great job of accomodating bicyclists, and they seem to be an accepted part of the community.

I've lived most of my life half an hour south of Portland in a small, rural farming community. For several years, I biked six miles to and from work, winding through country roads. It was great.

Now, however, I live in the suburbs. I'm getting the hang of doing errands on my bike. (Meaning: I'm learning the neighborhood and the best bicycle routes.) I haven't yet made the ten mile ride to downtown Portland, but I plan to by the end of the summer. I have many cyclist friends, and they're all keen on Portland's bicycle infrastructure.
posted by jdroth at 5:11 PM on July 11, 2005

I can't say its the most bike-friendly town but I've never had any problems at all getting around Santa Cruz, California on my bike. And I have spent a good period of time with no other transportation.

The buses have bike racks on the front and there are bike lanes on most of the major roads.

Plus, there are plenty of great places to ride along the ocean and there's almost nothing better (except when you get to turn around and ride WITH the wind!).
posted by fenriq at 5:11 PM on July 11, 2005

Here's one list. Here's another. From personal experience, Berkeley isn't bad.

And then there's Copenhagen.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 5:11 PM on July 11, 2005

Fort Collins, Colorado is also though not quite as expensive nor as disuading of automobile traffic as Boulder.
posted by gm2 at 5:13 PM on July 11, 2005

The center of Madison Wisconsin is excellent. They is a nice system of bike roads. The outskirts of town, however, are not great for bicycles, or really anything else.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:15 PM on July 11, 2005

The center of Madison Wisconsin is excellent. There is a nice system of bike roads. The outskirts of town, however, are not great for bicycles, or really anything else.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:16 PM on July 11, 2005

Davis, CA has had the "most friendly" rep for ages. I believe it has the highest per capita number of bikes in the US.
posted by TimeFactor at 5:17 PM on July 11, 2005

A link.
posted by TimeFactor at 5:19 PM on July 11, 2005

I used a bike to commute to work for two years in San Diego, 1990-2, at that time not having a car. The warm climate, the absence of rain (for the most part), and ubiquitous bike lanes make this a great locale for bicycling. I could go anywhere I wanted -- the Coronado ferry would let me take the bike aboard at no extra charge, and buses are equipped with bicycle racks to accomodate passengers who again, pay no extra fare for their equipment.
posted by ozziemaland at 5:27 PM on July 11, 2005

Oregon is biking heaven. Portland, Salem and Eugene are all very biker friendly. You could very easily live in Portland with a bike as your sole mode of transportation. Just make sure you have good rain tires.
posted by fatbobsmith at 5:28 PM on July 11, 2005

Ditto gesamtkunstwerk on Madison, Wis.: they plow the bike lanes downtown right away in the winter (sometimes before the car lanes). There's also a bike trail system that has recently been upgraded and added to. Depending on where you're going, it can make riding to the outskirts of town a bit easier.
posted by handful of rain at 5:31 PM on July 11, 2005

Thirding Madison as a biker's haven.
posted by Dr. Wu at 5:33 PM on July 11, 2005

Burlington, Vermont!
posted by k8t at 5:57 PM on July 11, 2005

Uber ditto for Portland (although all bikes in sold in Oregon should come with rain fenders).
posted by Staggering Jack at 6:20 PM on July 11, 2005

Chicago, the lakefront path is beautiful.
posted by corpse at 6:40 PM on July 11, 2005

Missoula, MT!

The MIST (Missoula Institute For Sustainable Transportation) has a few goals in place:

Significantly reduce crashes, pollution and congestion
Help create transportation choices
Diversify fuel systems
Reconnect critical wildlife habitats
Contribute to global sustainability
Reduce the energy consumed by transportation systems
Improve the health of people and communities

They hopes to make Missoula a model for sustainable transportation by the year 2010 by implementing the "Missoula Model", and are well on their way to doing it. They are in the process of replacing stop lights with roundabouts, connecting the various disparate public transportation elements, started "Bike, Walk, Bus Week", a celebration of sustainable travel, are expanding and connecting the bike trails, and support Freecycles Missoula, a local non-profit that provides free bikes, tools, and maintenance classes free of charge to anyone in the community. Cost of living in the area is reasonable, as well!
posted by rabble at 6:46 PM on July 11, 2005

I chip in and represent for Portland, OR as well. I'm pretty new to cycling and was nervous about biking in traffic, but Portland is very easy on bicyclists. Check out this map of available routes. The map only shows where bike specific lanes are, but one can go just about anywhere (within reason.) Fenders, however, are a must.
posted by elwoodwiles at 6:53 PM on July 11, 2005

Minneapolis and St. Paul are really good bike cities from March to November. December-February, not so much.

And the bike-ease goes down a bit when you leave the core cities, but it's still pretty decent.

And when I've been in Boulder, i've gotten the impression that it would be a grade-A bike city.
posted by COBRA! at 7:07 PM on July 11, 2005

Portland, Oregon.

We have a lot of bike lanes and if you don't live in some hellish suburb you can pretty much bike downtown in under 20 minutes. Safely. You can also ride your bike to drinking events, your nearest grocery store and your nearest record store. It is a lovely town.
posted by cmonkey at 7:26 PM on July 11, 2005

Davis, California is so, so awesome, TimeFactor. Have you been there? I lived there for one year, from age 12 to 13, and I've lived the rest of my life in Portland. I know you can't really compare the two cities because Davis is a small town and Portland is a medium-sized city, but Davis is infinitely more bike-friendly than Portland. My brother (8 at the time) and I were allowed to ride on any street at any time of the day or evening (with bike lights!) in Davis. It's so safe. Even as an adult, there are many streets in Portland that I will not ride on.
posted by peep at 7:38 PM on July 11, 2005

Having lived in Davis, CA for the last four years, and having ridden a bike nearly every day, I can without a doubt tell you that Davis is very bike-friendly. There are a few very nice bike shops downtown, as well as UC Davis' bike shop, so getting a bike is no problem (you can always buy a leaving student's one as well). Nearly all the streets have bike lanes, there are numerous bike tunnels and overpasses intended to promote bike use. The cars seem fairly friendly to us bikers, and every shop I've been to has bike parking/locking spots.

As for the city, it's a great small town. Close enough to the Bay Area, Tahoe, and Sacramento for you urban junkies, and also quite close to smaller towns and the country. As central California is quite flat, so biking is an ease. For mountain/trail biking, head out towards Tahoe and the foothills.

I will be leaving Davis soon, and I'll be sad to have to actually drive/bus to school from now on.
posted by ruwan at 7:57 PM on July 11, 2005

Ditto on FlamingoBore's Chicago vote. While I don't bike, I have noticed more and more freshly painted bike lanes on main streets...at least on the north side.
posted by awegz at 8:04 PM on July 11, 2005

Seconding Minneapolis. The Greenway is amazing, and it's easy to put bikes on the bus and light rail. The river trails and trails around the city lakes are gorgeous, and there are lots of woodland trails for bikers outside the city. We're hardy up here... several of my friends bike year-round with help from pegged wheels, plenty of Capilene and our robust northern constitutions.
posted by hamster at 9:06 PM on July 11, 2005

a good place to visit and bike would be mackinac island ... cars prohibited ... kind of hilly, though ... living there's improbable, though ...
posted by pyramid termite at 9:11 PM on July 11, 2005

Davis even has a bike statue on the way into town, sealing its rep.
posted by inksyndicate at 9:26 PM on July 11, 2005

Yes, Davis, also Chico CA. Everybody rides bikes because parking is limited downtown and weather is clear here three-quarters of the year. Also, it's completely, totally flat (if you're a lazy biker like myself).
posted by slimslowslider at 10:10 PM on July 11, 2005

ditto for Oregon. Corvallis has bike lanes on every major street (excluding downtown [all 10 blocks of it], which is a PITA), and drivers are careful about giving you enough room. With the university, there's tons of bikes all the time, so everyone's used to it.

There's also a community bike program... theres a set of (bright green, I think) bikes downtown, the idea being you get downtown somehow, then pick up one of these bikes and ride it where you need to go, then leave it for someone else to ride to the next spot. I'm not sure how well it works, because I just ride my own, but I see the bikes from time to time.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:41 PM on July 11, 2005

While I haven't biked Madison, I've heard it's lovely. There's a reason though that there are several bike companies based in Wisconsin, because Wisconsin people have lots of good places to ride.

In defense of my own city (Milwaukee aka MKE aka The Athens of the West), while we may not have very many miles of marked bike lanes, the roads are usually wide enough to bike safely. There's also 100 miles+ of trail (with a trail started in 1939!) surrounding the city, with some excellent views of Lake Michigan.
posted by drezdn at 11:43 PM on July 11, 2005

I'll throw in another vote for Portland -- our new mayor actually rode in a recent Critical Mass (to the dismay of some local cops, but he's a former chief of police, so...). There are certainly some busy streets in my neighborhood that I'd never ride on (Burnside, Sandy, MLK), but I'm also a wuss, and you can usually get from point A to point B without having to use the busiest roads. Learning the layout of the city is fairly easy.
posted by lisa g at 1:10 AM on July 12, 2005

posted by jaronson at 2:58 AM on August 9, 2005

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