2021’s Best Biking Cities in America

A group of three bicyclists wearing helmets rides along a street in Carlsbad, California.

Prefer to get around on two wheels over walking or driving? Then you need to know the Best Biking Cities in America.

Pedal power was already gaining steam before the pandemic sent millions of Americans scrambling to find bicycles. Now we ride like the wind to the store, to the office or just to get out of the house.

To mark World Bicycle Day, June 3, LawnStarter ranked the 200 biggest U.S. cities on 18 key indicators of a bike-friendly lifestyle. Among the factors we looked at are the length of bike lanes, the share of workers who bike to work, and access to bike stores and repair shops. We also considered the air quality, weather, and availability of biking clubs in each city.

Check out our ranking below, followed by some highlights and lowlights. 

Planning to ride your bike this summer? Wear a helmet. 

Table of Contents

City Rankings 

See how each city fared in our ranking:

OVERALL RANKCityOverall ScoreAccess RankCommunity RankSafety RankClimate Rank
1San Francisco, CA71.7717377
2Portland, OR71.5033143
3Fort Collins, CO66.06511291
4Eugene, OR63.92192469
5Minneapolis, MN62.77983152
6Seattle, WA62.124141557
7Washington, DC59.841062087
8Salt Lake City, UT58.111392598
9Boise, ID57.7818201664
10Boston, MA57.5117355104
11Vancouver, WA56.953360243
12St. Paul, MN56.4115427152
13Tempe, AZ56.173942370
14Hayward, CA55.698738310
15Fremont, CA54.582721647
16Denver, CO54.5511254894
17Madison, WI54.1616582176
18Sunnyvale, CA53.744016526
19New York, NY53.6266244142
20Santa Rosa, CA53.5625121501
21Buffalo, NY53.48421098141
22Rochester, NY53.24563713134
23St. Petersburg, FL52.6569411479
24Arlington, VA52.4849211887
25Albuquerque, NM51.7575213463
26Sacramento, CA51.7426308137
27Oakland, CA50.9244131417
28Miami, FL50.80215738112
29Lincoln, NE50.5943483396
30Chicago, IL49.96415119190
31Omaha, NE49.70308830137
32San Jose, CA49.6914871684
33Salem, OR49.52176651049
34Cincinnati, OH49.451219107200
35Las Vegas, NV49.3661922745
36Fullerton, CA49.30245013730
37Orange, CA49.19313414030
38Honolulu, HI48.9723361825
39Jersey City, NJ48.88511749166
40Tucson, AZ48.6575157865
41Orlando, FL48.60467743109
42Lexington, KY48.511711179101
43Dayton, OH48.42712756164
44Tampa, FL48.2958815179
45Sunrise Manor, NV47.391031503159
46Pittsburgh, PA47.37742632189
47Philadelphia, PA47.30943850118
48San Diego, CA47.24388915211
49Richmond, VA47.11772211699
50Anchorage, AK46.97284611593
51Pasadena, CA46.89632814530
52Elk Grove, CA46.87731274137
53Ontario, CA46.852012217516
54Henderson, NV46.80851802845
55Alexandria, VA46.7750337087
56Newark, NJ46.72652384157
57Long Beach, CA46.71228518315
58Irvine, CA46.64684413016
59Huntington Beach, CA46.53482417716
60Atlanta, GA46.48597455102
61Aurora, CO46.48271808594
62Mesa, AZ46.39150114670
63Savannah, GA46.331311012497
64Garden Grove, CA46.03326118616
65Providence, RI45.841514924161
66Torrance, CA45.75523216530
67Bellevue, WA45.67451448056
68Grand Rapids, MI45.631591847151
69Worcester, MA45.485410261171
70Baltimore, MD45.40647966139
71Spokane, WA45.34111972667
72Paradise, NV45.231411241759
73Modesto, CA45.232910316248
74Des Moines, IA45.176717075131
75Nashville, TN45.0512816711148
76Springfield, MO45.009312846156
77Santa Ana, CA44.87628316016
78Enterprise, NV44.781051896759
79Milwaukee, WI44.76539098133
80Riverside, CA44.72797114216
81Glendale, AZ44.65119553970
82Charlotte, NC44.533617912181
83New Orleans, LA44.491181197184
84Syracuse, NY44.471674722173
85Cleveland, OH44.356053103180
86Detroit, MI44.0810411369150
87San Antonio, TX44.035715596132
88Columbus, OH44.038714134174
89San Bernardino, CA44.031268211716
90Tacoma, WA44.0182589057
91Louisville, KY43.8912512021158
92St. Louis, MO43.82837064186
93Knoxville, TN43.798416092121
94North Las Vegas, NV43.761371772945
95Colorado Springs, CO43.74806610977
96Escondido, CA43.60706917414
97Scottsdale, AZ43.41127804270
98Rancho Cucamonga, CA43.251006814616
99McAllen, TX43.1213316063107
100Phoenix, AZ43.111091345870
101Lakewood, CO43.105512595146
102Oceanside, CA43.08894517311
103Greensboro, NC42.89869613978
104Austin, TX42.861135471119
105Yonkers, NY42.7647129133166
106Houston, TX42.5337143136194
106Indianapolis, IN42.537810689182
108Plano, TX42.4910114565122
109Toledo, OH42.461635959145
110Spring Valley, NV42.391701803659
111Springfield, MA42.101818435100
112Peoria, AZ41.931176388106
113Stockton, CA41.81359519641
114Raleigh, NC41.739515193109
115Chandler, AZ41.72135767970
116Anaheim, CA41.59979916716
117Reno, NV41.561442916166
118Huntsville, AL41.4788111127177
119Port St. Lucie, FL41.361461748786
120Olathe, KS41.319618073168
121Bridgeport, CT41.3017711074116
122Thornton, CO41.2234132185146
123Naperville, IL41.1610716545196
124Durham, NC41.1315510710682
125Palmdale, CA41.057616618430
126Hialeah, FL41.0472174113112
127Rockford, IL41.0216510057162
128Tallahassee, FL40.9616110554192
129Aurora, IL40.9513014860190
130Glendale, CA40.82986418916
131Chula Vista, CA40.7912010815811
132Gilbert, AZ40.771361607170
133Oxnard, CA40.741211041793
134Columbus, GA40.471781166885
135El Paso, TX40.381431589951
136Moreno Valley, CA40.3112416816316
137Fontana, CA40.2414215215516
138Cary, NC39.9381149132109
139Augusta, GA39.7916912691181
140Dallas, TX39.65129157101122
141Little Rock, AR39.549231192138
142Midland, TX39.371991196239
143Lubbock, TX39.2918813012040
144Fort Wayne, IN39.181839377140
145Los Angeles, CA39.131158619129
146Bakersfield, CA39.1216611215950
147Brownsville, TX39.091961804092
148Cape Coral, FL39.0018210176163
149Pomona, CA38.751164019530
150Corona, CA38.7212213616942
151Fort Lauderdale, FL38.699143181112
152Irving, TX38.42147180105122
153Joliet, IL38.2290171112196
154Overland Park, KS38.15134189102159
155Fort Worth, TX38.12138173118122
156Akron, OH38.12108123148175
157Miramar, FL38.0766189176135
158Garland, TX37.91156180104122
159Corpus Christi, TX37.7618017411184
160Arlington, TX37.63148138122122
161Metairie, LA37.5512339154184
162Fayetteville, NC37.5519014012990
163Lancaster, CA37.3310217219430
164Laredo, TX37.29195189110107
165McKinney, TX37.08158189100122
166Paterson, NJ37.04162153143165
167Sioux Falls, SD36.8617556135117
168Virginia Beach, VA36.841731609452
169Winston-Salem, NC36.82179131156103
170Clarksville, TN36.29110199166154
171Salinas, CA36.231841801872
172Frisco, TX36.19157139138122
173Fresno, CA36.1916413512568
174Chattanooga, TN36.16145115151179
175Tulsa, OK35.8915394144187
176Oklahoma City, OK35.8114075178143
177Memphis, TN35.65112178172183
178Norfolk, VA35.42191915352
179Grand Prairie, TX35.24152199157122
180Birmingham, AL35.13106159193188
181Kansas City, KS35.10149118190168
182Wichita, KS35.03168154114149
183Killeen, TX34.99192189126119
184Kansas City, MO34.89160121147159
185Hollywood, FL34.849978197135
186Pembroke Pines, FL34.44132189171112
187Amarillo, TX34.3720014611983
188Santa Clarita, CA34.2411416920016
189Pasadena, TX33.9815467149199
190Macon, GA33.69198133131105
191Shreveport, LA33.66185180170170
192Murfreesboro, TN33.63139142180172
193Jacksonville, FL33.61172156128144
194Mesquite, TX33.5318618986155
195Chesapeake, VA32.5418718910852
196Montgomery, AL32.30193147153198
197Mobile, AL31.89189189188178
198Newport News, VA31.6819716012352
199Jackson, MS28.88193137198193
200Baton Rouge, LA26.4217398199195

Infographic of 2021's Best Biking Cities in America, ranked based on length of bike lanes, share of bike commuters, access to bike stores, etc.

Highlights and Lowlights

West Coasting to a Win

When it comes to finding a nice place to bike, pedal toward the sunset. Cities from all over the Western U.S. dominate the top of our ranking. We start on the Pacific Coast in San Francisco, our No. 1 biking city, up through Oregon — Eugene at No. 4 and Portland at No. 2 — and continue north to Seattle at No. 6. We then head inland toward Boise, Idaho, in ninth place and back down to Salt Lake City in eighth.

While these cities ride well across most categories, the Pacific Northwest especially sets itself apart in safety. Oregon and Washington cities claim four of the top 10 slots in this category. Feel free to cruise the streets of Portland — our safest city — without putting yourself in harm’s way (just follow the traffic rules).

A Mixed Bicycle Bag (Lanes, Yes; Climate, No)

Many big cities have invested in biking infrastructure that’s reflected in our ranking. Washington, D.C., for example, has the fourth highest share of bike commuters and the second best bike score in the country. Boston is No. 5 in safety, while New York City ranks fourth in bike-trail access.

It’s climate that has our ranking pulling the brakes on these cities: New York City lands at 176 in precipitation and 138 in the number of very cold days (a bad combo if you’re outside in bike shorts). Boston has similar weather problems. While Washington has somewhat fewer very cold days, there are plenty of hot days, as well. 

If commuters are deciding whether to strap on a helmet and pedal through the elements, it turns out the weather matters, which keeps these otherwise great biking cities from riding high on our list.

Uneasy Riders in the South

It’s no surprise that Southern cities tend to find themselves at the bottom of our ranking. Biking requires a lot of outdoor time, which isn’t as easy in a place like Montgomery, Alabama, with an average of 85 very hot days in a year and a whopping 53 inches of annual rain. Warm and wet don’t mix well with cycling. 

It also makes sense that many of these same Southern cities — such as Jackson, Mississippi, or Shreveport, Louisiana — have few bike trails and bike commuters. Why invest in the infrastructure if the weather’s not good for biking? But don’t let that stop you. If you really love cycling enough to hit that wet pavement when the air is thick as soup, ride on.

Ask The Experts

Americans have been pedaling more during the pandemic as a safe alternative to public transit and to spend more time outdoors. So popular has biking become, in fact, that many U.S. cities currently grapple with a local bicycle shortage.

We turned to a panel of cycling experts to help us understand where the future of biking is headed and to share their best tips for beginner cyclists. See what they had to say below.

  1. What are the top three benefits of cycling?
  2. Will biking become a less popular mode of travel than driving or taking public transportation as more of the U.S. population gets vaccinated? Why or why not?
  3. What are some alternative places to find bikes amid the current national bike shortage?
  4. What are your three best tips for first-time cyclists?
N. Travis Triplett, PhD, CSCS*D, FNSCA
Professor of Exercise Science, Exercise Science Undergraduate Program Director, Department of Health and Exercise Science
Scott A. Conger, Ph.D., FACSM
Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology
N. Travis Triplett, PhD, CSCS*D, FNSCA
Professor of Exercise Science, Exercise Science Undergraduate Program Director, Department of Health and Exercise Science
Appalachian State University

1. What are the top three benefits of cycling?

  1. Cycling is a great form of exercise because it improves the cardiorespiratory system, which is important because heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S.
  2. If cycling is done on hilly terrains, there is even greater stress to the muscular system than on flatter terrains, which is important for maintaining strength.
  3. Cycling is also an excellent choice for individuals who need to do low-impact exercise due to joint problems, such as arthritis.

2. Will biking become a less popular mode of travel than driving or taking public transportation as more of the U.S. population gets vaccinated? Why or why not?

As more people get vaccinated and work habits and public transportation return to normal, I expect that the number of people cycling to work will decrease as it will be safer to be in more crowded settings.

However, I also believe that many of the people who purchased a bicycle during the pandemic did so because it was a relatively inexpensive form of exercise that could be done in a socially-distanced manner, especially when many gyms and fitness centers had to close.
Now that summer is approaching, people who were cycling for exercise primarily are going to be more likely to keep that up. So the overall decrease in people choosing to cycle may be as much as expected.

3. What are some alternative places to find bikes amid the current national bike shortage?

Bicycle shops’ inventory may be slow to recover as production catches up, but individuals may be able to still find a good bike on local buy-sell-trade sites as some individuals may have upgraded their bicycle during the pandemic and now have a bicycle to sell that still has some usefulness. There may be some great deals available.

4. What are your three best tips for first-time cyclists?

My best advice about cycling is to first find a bike that fits your body and the type of surfaces you will most likely be riding on. Bicycles vary greatly with the construction of the frame, the type of tires, and the components (gears, brakes, etc).

While your local bicycle shop is your best resource, there are articles online about how to get a general idea of what frame size you need and how to choose the type of bike that will be best for your riding conditions.

Second, find people to ride with. It is not only safer, but you also can learn about cycling a lot faster, including basic bicycle maintenance. Many bicycle shops have group rides for people of varying abilities.

Third, invest in proper cycling shorts. You will be a lot more comfortable and enjoy your rides much more.

Scott A. Conger, Ph.D., FACSM
Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology
Boise State University

1. What are the top three benefits of cycling?

  1. Cycling is a great way to increase your physical activity, which has numerous physical and mental health benefits.
  2. Cycling is a low-impact exercise. It is a great option for health benefits while reducing impact-related stress on knees, ankles, hips, and lower back.
  3. Cycling is the most efficient form of locomotion, meaning that it requires less energy per kilometer than any other type of human-powered movement. This can expand your “playground” to allow you to explore a much greater area. While it may take five to seven hours to cover 20 miles while hiking, you can cover that same distance on a bicycle in one to two hours.

2. Will biking become a less popular mode of travel than driving or taking public transportation as more of the U.S. population gets vaccinated? Why or why not?

I think that we will see a reduction in cycling as a mode of transportation as we transition back to normalcy in the coming months. This is especially evident in areas that lack the infrastructure necessary to support cycling (bike lanes, sidewalks, etc.).

However, this does not have to be the case. Cycling can be a great way to get some physical activity while running short errands near your home.

3. What are some alternative places to find bikes amid the current national bike shortage?

The shortage of new bicycles will probably continue for the next six to 12 months. However, there are still lots of places where bicycles are still available. There are several websites where used bicycles can be found that are sold by local sellers, including Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Nextdoor.

Also, check local sporting goods and outdoor consignment stores. If you already have a bicycle that hasn’t been used in a few years, your local bicycle shop can tune it up for you and have it ready to go in just a couple of days.

4. What are your three best tips for first-time cyclists?

  1. Invest in a good pair of cycling shorts and a new helmet. Cycling shorts with padding will help reduce some of the soreness that will inevitably occur after you spend an extended amount of time on your new bicycle saddle. Don’t worry if the skin-tight lycra look isn’t for you — there are lots of options of shorts with a padded liner that look like “regular” shorts. The helmet doesn’t need to be expensive, but it needs to have a Consumer Products Safety Committee (CPSC) sticker. Purchasing a new helmet will ensure that the protective components have not been damaged due to a previous accident or from an accidental drop.
  2. Learn how to change a bicycle tire. A flat tire 10 miles from home can turn a morning bike ride into a long walk home. Check with your local bike shop or sporting goods store to see if they offer classes on basic bicycle maintenance.
  3. Keep it fun! Incorporate cycling into family activities, visit a new park or trail, or ask a friend to join you on a bike ride. We are less likely to continue an activity if we do not enjoy it. If it starts to become a chore, slow down or shorten the ride. You will still get many health benefits with a 10- to 20-minute bike ride.

Methodology

We ranked the 200 most populated U.S. cities from best (No. 1) to worst (No. 200) based on their overall scores. A city’s overall score (out of 100 possible points) is the average of all of the city’s weighted scores across the metrics listed below.

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. ValueBest
Access
Miles of Bike Lanes per Square Mile30.105.40Max. Value
Number of Bike Trails3023Max. Value
Availability of Bike-Sharing Program101Max. Value
Bike Rental Facilities per 100,000 Residents1072.30Max. Value
Bike Shops per 100,000 Residents1012.37Max. Value
Community
Share of Workers Who Bike to Work206Max. Value
Bike Clubs per 100,000 Residents102.65Max. Value
Bike Tours per 100,000 Residents106.87Max. Value
Safety
Bike Score32497Max. Value
Natural Hazards Index Score2920Min. Value
Share of Roads in Poor Condition24%71%Min. Value
Bike-Related Fatalities per 100,000 Residents204.53Min. Value
State Biking Laws Ranking1149Min. Value
Climate
Number of Very Cold Days10192Min. Value
Number of Very Hot Days12169Min. Value
Average Monthly Precipitation1565Min. Value
Average Amount of Sunshine1085Max. Value
Air Quality11977Min. Value

Sources: AllTrails, Bikeshare.com, The League of American Bicyclists, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, National Centers for Environmental Information, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, TRIP, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, USA Cycling, Walk Score, and Yelp

Why This Study Matters

America is in the midst of a biking boom, thanks to the pandemic kicking the trend into gear. 

At the height of lockdowns, cycling events were canceled across the country, but more people started riding bikes — many for the first time. Bike sales soared, and manufacturers and retailers struggled to keep up with demand. 

As a free, eco-friendly, and socially distant means of travel, bikes became essential to essential workers who needed a way to get to work. Those of us stuck at home, on the other hand, needed an excuse to get outside and beat the COVID blues. Plus, the exercise was a nice bonus.

But don’t expect the trend to slow down anytime soon. One in two Americans plan to cycle more after the pandemic now that we’ve turned the corner toward better health.

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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Staff Writer