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What makes a community bicycle-friendly?

North America's best cities for bicycling share one thing in common: they have implemented a wide range of measures that have made bicycling safe, convenient, and comfortable. They have realized that there is no simple or single answer to this question.

The best cities for bicycling have significant regional rails linked to a network of major streets with striped bike lanes and signed bike routes. They have fixed up their streets to provide a safe and comfortable ride, and they have installed secure bike parking to ensure your bike is still there when you come back to it. They may also have reduced vehicle speeds and flows to make residential roads more conducive to riding, and they may require new office buildings to incorporate parking, showers and changing facilities.

Most likely these communities are also trying new ways to improve conditions for bicyclists by redesigning intersections to give cyclists priority, experimenting with colored bike lanes, or installing traffic lights with a special bicycle logo.

All of these activities fall under the general heading of designing communities for bicyclists and there is now a wealth of information available to help communities follow the lead of cities such as Portland, Ore., Davis, Calif., Seattle, Wash., Gainesville, Fla., Tucson, Ariz., and Madison, Wis.

Don't forget, however, that these communities probably also publish a bike map, promote bicycling through events, teach bicycle safety in schools, integrate bicycles into the transit system, and enforce traffic laws that affect bicyclist safety. Information on these other critical elements to making a community bicycle-friendly are available elsewhere on this web site. In the following sections, you will learn about the specific designs of on- and off-street facilities that can make communities more bicycle-friendly.

Introducing an awards program that recognizes municipalities that actively support bicycling. Apply online at:

Best Cities for Bicycling

In November, 2001, Bicycling magazine rated the best cities for bicycling in North America. For the first time, they split the cities into three categories: those with a population of 200,000 to 500,000, 500,000 to 1 million, and 1 million or more. In addition, they chose one city, regardless of population as an overall winner.

Best Overall City:
Portland, Oregon

Cities with a population between 200,000 and 500,000:
1. Denver
2. Madison
3. Tucson

Cities with a population between 500,000 and 1 million:
1. Seattle
2. Austin
3. San Francisco

Cities with a population of 1 million or more:
1. Montreal
2. Chicago
3. San Diego

Honorable mentions: