- The third annual PeopleForBikes City Ratings found San Luis Obispo, CA as the top U.S. city for bicycling.
- The ratings analyze five key indicators of bicycle programs — ridership, safety, network, reach (how far the program connects with the community) and acceleration (how quickly the program is being adopted or improved) — across more than 550 cities and communities. Madison, WI; Santa Barbara, CA; Washington, DC; and Missoula, MT rounded out the top five.
- In developing the ratings, PeopleForBikes used data from the American Community Survey and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System, as well as data received through each city's participation in a PeopleForBikes City Snapshot report.
The 2020 ratings are far from similar to PeopleForBikes' 2019 ratings, in which Boulder, CO; Eugene, OR; Manhattan, NY; Arlington, VA and Lawrence, KS topped the list. PeopleForBikes' Director of Local Innovation Kyle Wagenschutz told Smart Cities Dive that the difference is a reflection of who submits the City Snapshot portion of the data — info that PeopleForBikes relies on, but not every city provides.
"Cities receive a lot of these kinds of requests on a daily basis. I think for a city staffer, there's always a measure of analysis to say, is it worth my time to fill this out?" he said. "There's a lot of reasons why cities may or may not be completing that."
Wagenschutz said these ratings are not to be compared year-over-year, however the intention of the ratings remains consistent, as do the five key indicators of bicycle programs. He said among those five indicators, cities have shown the most growth in the "network" and "reach" areas, while "ridership" has remained fairly stable.
"We can ask a city to make an investment in their bicycle network to improve conditions for people riding. We can't really ask them to go out and create new riders," he said.
The data for this report was collected prior to the onset of coronavirus, during which ridership has skyrocketed in cities around the globe. Wagenschutz said it's possible for that spike to maintain post-coronavirus in the U.S., but only if cities are truly "prioritizing building out places for people to ride bikes." While concepts like car-free streets are a step forward for biking safety and accessibility, he said "connectivity has to be key" in deciding where those routes are implemented.
Looking ahead, Wagenschutz said U.S. cities have much work to do in catching up to their international counterparts in terms of successful biking programs. Even San Luis Obispo, the "top-rated" U.S. city, only received a score of 3.5 out of 5 stars from PeopleForBikes.
"To say that you're the best in the U.S. is certainly an accolade that should be celebrated, but when you look at the global standard that we want to achieve for cycling, being the best in the US is simply not enough," Wagenschutz said. "Every community has a long way to go."