Traveler Contributing Editor James Conaway cruised Portland by bike in our November/December issue and experienced first-hand how bike friendly the “City that Works” is. Portland is the first U.S. city to earn a Platinum rating from the League of American Bicyclists (in 2003), and it boasts a staggering 164 miles of bike lanes, 66 miles of bike paths, and 30 miles of bike boulevards.
Portland’s Office of Transportation provided us with some stats that further testify to Portland’s love of bikes: Eight percent of Portlanders see their bikes as their primary commuting vehicles, they make over 16,000 trips daily over the city’s four bridges that span the Willammette River, and the city boasts 4,000 organized bike rides a year. Pretty impressive, right?
We wanted to know how other North American cities measure up to Portland. In June 2008, Forbes Traveler assembled a list of the top ten most bike-friendly cities in North America.
And the winners are …
• At number 10, Chicago: The Windy City still has a lot of work to do to become more bike friendly, but it aims to surpass Portland by 2015.
• At number 9, Minneapolis: Forbes Traveler claims that even the Twin Cities’ frigid winters don’t dissuade all cyclists from going for a spin. Minneapolis hopes to establish bike-path access to all neighborhoods by 2020.
• In a disputed (by readers) 8th place, the Big Apple: A greenway encircling Manhattan is in the works and, while the city’s unfortunately still the leader in bike thefts, when I was in New York over Labor Day, I too noticed the increased number of bike lanes and expanded bike paths, especially along the West Side Highway, since I lived there seven years ago.
• San Francisco pants into 7th place. Though the city’s iconic hills make biking tough going, maps that showcase more manageable hills are available and the public transport system, BART, now accommodates bikes.
• In 6th place, we find Seattle, sporting a 1.5-acre urban mountain bike park. Forbes Traveler comments that its Burke-Gilman Trail is a rails-to-trails success story.
• Davis, California, a city of more bikes than cars in which 17 percent of all travel is of the two-wheel variety, claims 5th place.
• Montreal, with its Vélo Québec bike rental program, grabs 4th place. It plans to equip all buses and taxis with bike racks.
• Flat and sunny San Diego, boasting 850 miles of trails, claims a respectable 3rd place.
• Healthy Boulder lands in 2nd place, despite its elevation. The city has bike lanes on 95 percent of its arterials and 350 miles of bike lanes and paths.
• And, standing tall at number 1, Portland.
Is it on the list? Which cities, both in North America and around the world, deserve to be on such a list? Amsterdam? Copenhagen? Sandnes and Trondheim, Norway? Berlin?
Photo: Susan Seubert