City bicycle commuter
Photo credit: PeopleForBikes

Shakeups, Surprises, and … Canada? America’s Best Cities for Cycling in 2020

PeopleForBikes’ annual city ranking list has historically presented a lineup of the usual suspects. Not this year.

Ask anyone with a bike in their garage what the most cycling-friendly cities in the U.S. are, and you’re sure to hear old standards like Minneapolis and Portland. Maybe you’ll even get quaint college towns like last year’s winner, Boulder, Colorado.

But PeopleForBikes, one of the country’s preeminent bicycle advocacy nonprofits, this year determined that many of the bike-friendly mainstays many enthusiasts love are, in fact, not as friendly as you might think.

This year’s City Ratings ranked more than 500 U.S. cities (plus Toronto and Vancouver) for ridership, safety, route networks, and more to arrive at an overall score. And while the methodology remained the same, the rankings revealed some staggering changes from years prior.

For example, Boulder — last year’s top city — fell 71 spots. It now trails the likes of obscure cities like Carpinteria, California; Morgantown, West Virginia; and Warren, Pennsylvania.

Minneapolis — home to the “bicycle superhighway” Midtown Greenway, GearJunkie headquarters, and the first U.S. city in nearly a decade to crack the Best Bicycle Cities in the World ranking — barely made PeopleForBikes’ top 100. Placing 99th, Minneapolis was edged out by Enid, Oklahoma.

When asked about the shuffle, PeopleForBikes director of local innovation Kyle Wagenschutz pointed out that some cities opted to not submit “city snapshot” data.

“The city snapshot gathers data on a city’s existing bike network and planned improvements to provide a full picture of bicycling in the community,” Wagenschutz said. “If a city chose not to submit their city snapshot — as is the case for Boulder and Minneapolis in 2020 — we’re unable to provide the full potential points for that category.”

PeopleForBikes City Rankings

So, what is the best place to bike, according to PeopleForBikes? San Luis Obispo, California, population 47,000, took the top spot, barely edging out Madison, Wisconsin. And coming in a close third was Toronto, Ontario — one of two Canadian locales included in the list of America’s top bike cities.

To arrive at an overall score, PeopleForBikes weighs five factors, each of which accounts for 20% of a city’s final score. Ridership reflects how many people in a community ride — both for commuting and recreationally.

Safety accounts for the number of injuries and fatalities of both cyclists and pedestrians in a given city. Network scores how completely a city connects destinations with “comfortable routes.”

Reach offers a more qualitative look at data. It considers demographic data to determine how well served members of various economic and social communities are and how much access those groups have to cycling. Finally, acceleration looks at how rapidly a city is improving its bike infrastructure.

With all those criteria in mind, here are the top 20 cities for 2020. (To understand more about PeopleForBikes City Rating methodology and data, click here.)

Most Bike-Friendly Cities in America

  1. San Luis Obispo, California
  2. Madison, Wisconsin
  3. Toronto, Ontario
  4. Santa Barbara, California
  5. Washington, D.C.
  6. Missoula, Montana
  7. Rogers, Arkansas
  8. Fort Collins, Colorado
  9. Denver, Colorado
  10. Grand Forks, North Dakota
  11. Fayetteville, Arkansas
  12. Ann Arbor, Michigan
  13. Portland, Oregon
  14. Tucson, Arizona
  15. Bella Vista, Arkansas
  16. Brooklyn, New York
  17. Provincetown, Massachusetts
  18. New Orleans, Louisiana
  19. Arlington, Virginia
  20. Austin, Texas

Curious where your city ranked? You can check out the full list of 567 cities here.

Adam Ruggiero
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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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