Bicycling Magazine (world’s largest bicycling magazine) just released its top 50 bicycle-friendly cities list for 2010. We’re excited to hear that Seattle came in fourth, behind Minneapolis (1), Portland (2) and Boulder (3), but naturally our response was… what will it take to move Seattle to number one?
We decided to look into what the winning cities have done to support bicycling, to glean insight for how Seattle might move up in the rankings. Here’s a snapshot of what we learned:
Let’s start with the winner, Minneapolis. Minneapolis has nearly 130 miles of bike lanes and trails, a strong bicycling culture (where people ride through the harsh winters), and an incredible number of bicycle parking spaces throughout the city (precisely 430 for every 10,000 people). Minneapolis has the second highest percentage of bike to work commuters, next to Portland. Even with the high percentage of bicycle commuting, Minneapolis is one of the safest bicycling cities, with a very low number of bicycle fatalities, which supports the “Safety in Numbers” research (the more people bicycling, the safer it becomes).
Meanwhile, our neighbor Portland boasts a remarkable network of bicycle infrastructure, with over 240 miles of bike lanes and trails. What’s more, the city recently adopted a $613 million bike plan, which envisions a future where 25 percent of trips are made by bike. Portland has the highest percentage of bike to work commuters (cities over 100,000), and like Minneapolis, has a very low bicycle fatality rate.
Another category that was evaluated as part of Bicycling Magazine’s bike-friendly cities report was Innovation. After recently visiting Portland, I can attest to the fact that Portland has excelled in this category. The city is one of the first to experiment with cycle tracks, and has developing an astounding network of bicycle boulevards.
Back in our home city of Seattle, we are experiencing a growing bicycle movement. The city’s bicycle counts continue to increase as the city continues to expand the bicycle network, though in comparison to Portland and Minneapolis (both of which are smaller in population), the 2010 Bicycling and Walking Benchmarking Report reports that Seattle only has about 52 miles of bike lanes and trails (excluding sharrows). In other words, we still have a ways to go to catch up to Portland and Minneapolis.
As we look forward to Bicycling Magazine’s next round in 2012, we think Seattle is in a good position. With the political leadership in place, Seattle is beginning to engage in discussions about cycle tracks, a bike share program, and various other innovative bicycle facilities and programs. I predict that by 2012 Seattle will make it to the medals ceremony (top three).