2023’s Best Cities to Live Without a Car

Group of commuters of varying ages and genders boards a public bus

Prefer to get around on two feet instead of four wheels? 

In some cities, you can easily ditch your car and hoof it — or bike, take public transit, and share a ride when you need to.

With car ownership more expensive than ever and harming the environment, LawnStarter ranked 2023’s Best Cities to Live Without a Car. 

We compared the 200 biggest U.S. cities based on 19 indicators of car-free-friendliness. We measured each city’s walkability, transit ridership, climate, and pedestrian safety, among other factors.

See where your city stands in our ranking below, followed by our take on the results.

Contents

City Rankings

See how each city fared in our ranking:

Overall Rank (1=Best)CityOverall ScoreAccess RankCommute Culture RankSafety RankClimate Rank
1San Francisco, CA71.391214936
2Boston, MA61.749350135
3Washington, DC61.4071135110
4New York, NY60.632853175
5Seattle, WA59.136513382
6Portland, OR58.543618074
7Fort Collins, CO57.2224133862
8Minneapolis, MN56.2141116588
9Madison, WI54.8530776134
10Sunnyvale, CA54.8316417236
11Salt Lake City, UT54.70102014170
12Oakland, CA54.10111618636
13Boise, ID54.0131372360
14Los Angeles, CA53.9613679822
15Jersey City, NJ53.90221232176
16Eugene, OR53.61264150140
17Denver, CO53.29123311764
18Philadelphia, PA53.131410136139
19Providence, RI52.81151958166
20Pasadena, CA52.713547908
21San Jose, CA52.4319806636
22Santa Rosa, CA52.395572251
23Chicago, IL52.26818152147
24Irvine, CA52.006860108
25Tempe, AZ51.77451714753
26Orange, CA51.6438103448
27Huntington Beach, CA51.6417161888
28Long Beach, CA51.5918921287
29San Diego, CA51.544779612
30Sacramento, CA51.24234513147
31Alexandria, VA50.99253633110
32Pittsburgh, PA50.89339119169
33Hayward, CA50.7650624836
34Oxnard, CA49.478364566
35St. Paul, MN48.82272912388
36Reno, NV48.7971507943
37Tucson, AZ48.72363018249
38Salinas, CA48.27431509134
39Miami, FL48.15556155182
40Buffalo, NY47.95462381155
41Baltimore, MD47.902825132144
42Santa Ana, CA47.7111148838
43Lincoln, NE47.6144576480
44Grand Rapids, MI47.41373585154
45Killeen, TX47.07321294390
46Fullerton, CA47.069896638
47Las Vegas, NV47.01761416523
48El Paso, TX46.80941483035
49Syracuse, NY46.479114102158
50Spokane, WA46.31595312771
51Amarillo, TX46.26491059369
52Pomona, CA46.2697551398
53Anaheim, CA46.1488115968
54Glendale, CA45.80131160178
55Newark, NJ45.69543482168
56Fremont, CA45.671131114936
57Cleveland, OH45.472939153163
58Garden Grove, CA45.46131107558
59North Las Vegas, NV45.441301621923
60Tacoma, WA45.3960716082
61Albuquerque, NM45.33488217445
62Rochester, NY44.946222158116
63Worcester, MA44.91843834173
64Phoenix, AZ44.88617615153
65Torrance, CA44.77129179248
66Riverside, CA44.72128848427
67Mesa, AZ44.61105748953
68Milwaukee, WI44.593444175118
69Tampa, FL44.454085125113
70Chandler, AZ44.441241462253
71Colorado Springs, CO44.3587959961
72Anchorage, AK44.29894212072
73Fresno, CA44.14538918442
74Roseville, CA44.111071961850
75Richmond, VA43.954224187132
76New Orleans, LA43.952115191198
77Austin, TX43.94517012991
78Santa Clarita, CA43.8917419228
79Lubbock, TX43.72906115452
80Modesto, CA43.657316712451
81Laredo, TX43.601151081679
82Salem, OR43.59103469587
83Bridgeport, CT43.57855178130
84Bakersfield, CA43.439215313726
85Scottsdale, AZ43.351191714153
86St. Petersburg, FL43.2252118104113
87Norfolk, VA43.1611626111119
88Omaha, NE43.14641148785
89Elk Grove, CA43.061531731247
90Chula Vista, CA42.94178149212
91Midland, TX42.841501552946
92Yonkers, NY42.81162288176
93Paterson, NJ42.701382175171
94Henderson, NV42.621581802623
95Rancho Cucamonga, CA42.551431874227
96Savannah, GA42.5511727109146
97Stockton, CA42.3612114511044
98Springfield, MA42.221127837133
99Detroit, MI41.98414019292
100McAllen, TX41.61139992881
101San Bernardino, CA41.201408116927
102Sioux Falls, SD41.199612010678
103Glendale, AZ41.1711010116053
104Corpus Christi, TX41.159311911277
105Cincinnati, OH41.147752164141
106Toledo, OH41.117090138123
107Aurora, CO41.1111813311864
108Peoria, AZ41.061541773153
109Corona, CA40.711671865127
110Naperville, IL40.691481891147
111Moreno Valley, CA40.561711636727
112Orlando, FL40.5539154166160
113Wichita, KS40.558211612693
114Waco, TX40.411207711576
115Columbus, OH40.3657113144157
116Escondido, CA40.321821251032
117Oceanside, CA40.221681781072
118Fort Wayne, IN40.2210913473112
119Lexington, KY40.159588114152
120San Antonio, TX40.02869316386
121Plano, TX40.011261901499
122Vancouver, WA39.891149813474
123Springfield, MO39.877875145161
124Rockford, IL39.8110086130138
125Ontario, CA39.701761579227
126Brownsville, TX39.611611473973
127Dallas, TX39.597210417299
128Des Moines, IA39.4910287148115
129Bellevue, WA39.43184327482
130Fontana, CA39.371881515227
131Akron, OH39.197597161151
132Charleston, SC39.15635918995
133Tulsa, OK39.1069112156165
134St. Louis, MO39.082049199153
135Dayton, OH39.046531194145
136Lakewood, CO38.931641439764
137Lancaster, CA38.861701691408
138Newport News, VA38.841656369119
139Aurora, IL38.791751066147
140Raleigh, NC38.76106168100137
141Denton, TX38.711495812199
142Warren, MI38.701421763696
143Durham, NC38.59101110142136
144Thornton, CO38.541731844564
145Mesquite, TX38.531631244799
146Surprise, AZ38.471691855463
147Virginia Beach, VA38.4716013240119
148Charlotte, NC38.1412714011698
149Fort Lauderdale, FL37.8658127178182
150West Valley City, UT37.82191687768
151Winston-Salem, NC37.691811235129
152Kansas City, KS37.6615083113125
153Augusta, GA37.5479102176174
154Atlanta, GA37.405654195156
155Louisville, KY37.3674122181167
156Indianapolis, IN37.2381131173159
157Houston, TX37.2366117168195
158Garland, TX37.181521598099
159Oklahoma City, OK37.0310813917194
160Tallahassee, FL37.0110469159197
161Hialeah, FL37.0013516659182
162Arlington, TX36.981591656899
163Hampton, VA36.8815713794117
164Chattanooga, TN36.8613691108190
165Hollywood, FL36.7614610086182
166Palmdale, CA36.39199172708
167Irving, TX36.321801384699
168Olathe, KS36.311821749125
169Fayetteville, NC36.1616643177131
170Knoxville, TN35.9114473162162
171Port St. Lucie, FL35.461871754180
172Jacksonville, FL35.06123142170170
173Carrollton, TX34.751911911397
174Kansas City, MO34.48156164143125
175Frisco, TX34.41196200399
176Columbus, GA34.37155136157142
177Fort Worth, TX34.2517214414699
178Cape Coral, FL34.131791947193
179Greensboro, NC34.02177128122124
180Overland Park, KS33.9818419335125
181McKinney, TX33.681941971599
182Nashville, TN33.66125135183178
183Birmingham, AL33.5913466188192
184Pasadena, TX33.13190109101195
185Macon, GA32.90145121185143
186Montgomery, AL32.74147152167189
187Grand Prairie, TX32.731971705799
188Baton Rouge, LA32.259965196199
189Joliet, IL32.2418618871147
190Chesapeake, VA32.0520018327119
191Pembroke Pines, FL32.0418919820182
192Jackson, MS31.856794198194
193Huntsville, AL31.64137182179191
194Murfreesboro, TN31.3819815662178
195Miramar, FL31.3619519911182
196Memphis, TN30.2380130200181
197Shreveport, LA30.09133158193188
198Little Rock, AR29.88122126197164
199Clarksville, TN29.55193195105172
200Mobile, AL28.86140181190200
Infographic showing the Best Cities to Live Without a Car, a ranking based on walkability, pedestrian safety, climate, and current car-free practices
For presentation purposes, not all ties may be displayed for some metrics above

Highlights and Lowlights

Big Cities Walk the Talk

America’s most populated cities continue to stand out as the Best Cities to Live Without a Car. Once again, San Francisco stands tallest at No. 1. Six other big cities also remained in our top 10 this year but with a bit of reshuffling.

What do these cities have in common? They all ranked in the top 10 of our Access category and, save for Minneapolis at No. 11, in our Commute Culture rank.

The densest urban cities tend to fare well in mobility studies like ours. The more packed a city, the less distance to travel and the more transportation options available. That’s also true of college towns like Fort Collins, Colorado, and Madison, Wisconsin, which replace two of our previous top 10 finishers.

In sprawling suburbs, commuters either are forced or find it more convenient to drive. Bike-friendly Sunnyvale, California (No. 10 overall), is an exception. Sunnyvale forms part of Silicon Valley, where many locals prefer to bike to work over other modes of transport.

The South: Pedestrian at Best

Southern cities are seemingly built for cars, not people. Not a single city from this region cracked our top 25 or even our top 30. At No. 31, Alexandria, Virginia, is the South’s best performer — if you can call Alexandria “the South.” Otherwise, it’s Miami at No. 39. 

In fact, our bottom 25 consists almost entirely of Southern cities. Mobile, Alabama, stumbled to last place, owing to the worst climate of all.

Why did the South fare so badly? Unbearable climes account for much of the problem, but it was an uphill battle in all other categories. There are, of course, some hidden gems. Miami, for example, ranked fifth overall in Access. In Commute Culture, New Orleans sashayed to No. 15. Meanwhile, Frisco, Texas; Port St. Lucie, Florida; and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, dominated our top five in Safety.

The upshot: The South is not all bad for the anti-car, but it’s generally not great.

Surprising Findings

No Cold Feet in Minneapolis

How did notoriously frigid Minneapolis pedal its way to spot No. 8? Last winter, some days were literally colder in Mill City than on Mars.

Downtown Minneapolis buildings are connected through a system of glass-enclosed footbridges called Skyways. These glass corridors (above streets) allow folks to move comfortably through the city without ever stepping one foot outside. If you’re brave, Minneapolis is famous for its immaculate sidewalks, too (but beware: they may not be shoveled this winter).

The rest of the year — when not worrying about frostbite — Minneapolis is a cyclist’s paradise. The city’s Access and Commute Culture scores reflect residents’ enthusiasm for two wheels. Minneapolis boasts the 16th best access to bike rentals, the eighth highest share of bike commuters, and way fewer pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents than in 177 other cities. 

The only drawback? Bike thefts run rampant in Mill City. 

Bluff City Ain’t Bluffin’

Walking in Memphis might inspire you to write a Grammy-nominated hit, but it turns out a daily stroll in the Land of the Delta Blues is not ideal. Memphis is our fifth-worst city to live a car-free lifestyle — and the least safe for pedestrians. The lack of security — along with low walk and bike scores — might explain why more commuters here opt to drive, carpool, or ride-share. 

The gospel in the air doesn’t do pedestrians any favors, either. Although Memphis ranked a decent 56 in air quality, its relatively punishing climate (No. 181) makes it uncomfortable to be outdoors.

The abundance of electric scooter rentals was the city’s only saving grace from tumbling further down in our ranking. The city introduced e-scooters to locals in 2018, the same year that nonprofit My City Rides started selling hybrid motor scooters to low-income workers as an affordable transportation option. Scooters don’t solve all of Memphis’ mobility problems, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Ask The Experts

Many countries have successfully adopted a car-free culture, but the U.S. remains heavily reliant on vehicles for transportation. 

We turned to a panel of experts for insights and tips on going car-free. Read their responses below.

  1. What would it take to make a city completely car-free? Is that possible or even a good idea? Please explain.

  2. Compared with other countries, why is the U.S. slower to embrace the car-free lifestyle?

  3. Are car-free days a good long-term solution to traffic-related problems, such as noise, pollution, congestion, and associated health issues?

  4. What are some situations that absolutely require having a car?

  5. What are your top three tips for someone considering a car-free lifestyle?
J. Patrick Abulencia
Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering
Wie Yusuf
Professor
Michael T. Schmeltz, DrPH, MS
Assistant Professor
Kenneth Martens Friesen, Ph.D.
Professor of History and International Studies
J. Patrick Abulencia
Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering
Manhattan College

What would it take to make a city completely car-free? Is that possible or even a good idea? Please explain.

People require access to their place of employment and critical services such as grocery stores and pharmacies. Beyond these locations, people need reasonable access to retail stores, restaurants, and leisure (e.g. movie theaters). Thus, a car-free lifestyle is possible in a dense urban center such as Manhattan simply because it is not particularly big (most can reasonably walk or bike to work), and it has a large variety of retail available within walking distance to most residents. Additionally, it has a robust public transportation system that provides access to locations beyond walking distance.

A car-free policy would have several benefits. First, a reduction in automobile utilization would lower energy consumption and emissions. Second, having people go car-free would encourage them to do most of their business close to their residence, which improves the community. Finally, not using cars would have health benefits for drivers because they would be walking or biking instead, and for citizens because of lower pollution.

Despite these benefits, a city going completely car-free may not be practical for reasons discussed below in the ensuing questions.

Compared with other countries, why is the U.S. slower to embrace the car-free lifestyle?

The “American Dream” includes the notions of home and automobile ownership, as well as the freedom to go wherever you want whenever you want. For this reason, there is a significant and deep-rooted set of mores and habits in American society that would have to change in order to go car-free. Despite this, there are members of the U.S. population who are aware of the environmental impacts of automobiles and/or those who practice active lifestyles that have fully embraced living car-free.

Are car-free days a good long-term solution to traffic-related problems such as noise, pollution, congestion, and associated health issues?

Car-free days inherently reduce environmental impacts such as energy consumption and vehicle emissions, as well as health impacts such as driver stress and resident exposure to pollution. Despite these benefits, car-free days may not be a good solution in practice.

First, public transportation would typically pick up the burden of vehicular traffic, which could lead to congestion on that system, as well as an increase in crime. Second, a municipality dictating when a driver can and cannot use their vehicle would be anathema to the flexibility they typically provide. Finally, enforcement would be difficult, particularly in populous cities, thus making the policy moot.

What are some situations that absolutely require having a car?

  1. When transporting heavy or multiple objects
  2. For individuals with mobility issues
  3. For those with occupations where the time going from place to place is significantly lower using a vehicle rather than other modes of transportation (e.g. visiting nurse)

What are your top three tips for someone considering a car-free lifestyle?

  1. Be close. Your place of employment will be your biggest transportation burden. Choose a residence close to there.
  2. Be flexible. Understand that you are limited to services within walking or biking distance, and public transportation has its own schedule.
  3. Be realistic. If you and your family do not like walking, biking, and using public transportation, this isn’t for you.
Wie Yusuf
Professor
Old Dominion University

What would it take to make a city completely car-free? Is that possible or even a good idea? Please explain.

If a city is self-contained and everything residents need can be accessed via public transportation or other non-automobile options, then it might be possible for a city to be completely car-free. But I don’t think it is a good idea or realistic because car-free options might not meet the accessibility and mobility needs of differently abled individuals.

As someone who does not drive, I rely extensively on walking, biking, public transportation, and ride-hailing –– but these are reasonable options because I live in an urban area with a fairly decent regional public transportation system, and I am also able to catch rides with family, friends, or colleagues.

While I don’t have a car, my mobility still relies on others having cars. The complete streets approach that has been adopted by many cities in the U.S., including the City of Norfolk (Virginia) where I live, is a more realistic option compared to the car-free option that acknowledges the need for cars while planning, designing, constructing, and operating roads and streets in a way that enables safe use and mobility of drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and users of public transportation.

Compared with other countries, why is the U.S. slower to embrace the car-free lifestyle?

I think this is founded in individualism, a deeply rooted American philosophy, where we value independence, individuality, and autonomy that manifests in car ownership and reliance on the automobile to get around. This has resulted, for example, in getting a driver’s license becoming a right of passage for American teenagers that gives them the ability to independently travel for school, work, and social activities, and where the loss of a driver’s license by the elderly is seen as a loss of independence.

We also love our space, which has contributed to urban sprawl and increases our love affair with the cars needed to get us to work, the store, and other places at our convenience. We see people who don’t drive or don’t own cars as out of the ordinary. People are often surprised when I tell them that I don’t drive.

Are car-free days a good long-term solution to traffic-related problems, such as noise, pollution, congestion, and associated health issues?

Car-free days themselves will not solve traffic-related problems. They need to be accompanied by educational campaigns that speak to how being car-free helps reduce noise, pollution, congestion, and associated health issues. And car-free days are viable solutions when there are other non-automobile options to get people from point A to point B in a reasonable time frame.

If car-free days instead show people how difficult it is for them to get around without a car, it reinforces their automobile reliance and increases resistance to participate in future car-free days.

What are some situations that absolutely require having a car?

Having a car is absolutely required in areas where the non-automobile transportation infrastructure is limited or non-existent. For example, if you live in a rural area where people and places are spread out and public transportation options are limited, you need a car to get around. Or, if you live in an area that is not pedestrian or bicyclist friendly, then you might need a car.

When I sometimes have to teach classes in another city, I’m able to take public transportation, but a commute that would normally take 45 minutes by car would take almost 2 hours by bus. If I had to regularly travel outside of the urban area or to areas not served by the public transportation system, I would need a car.

What are your top three tips for someone considering a car-free lifestyle?

  1. Live close to work and other amenities.
  2. Know that it might take you longer to get places without a car.
  3. Embrace the benefits that come from living car-free: saving money on car ownership costs, improved health from walking and biking activities, and reducing automobile pollution.
Michael T. Schmeltz, DrPH, MS
Assistant Professor
California State University East Bay, Department of Public Health

What would it take to make a city completely car-free? Is that possible or even a good idea? Please explain.

The way our cities are currently designed, having a city completely car-free does not make sense. It would take time to redesign cities to allow this to be feasible, but it can be a goal. To get there, though, we would need to start with a few changes.

To reduce the use of cars in cities, we need to build widespread, reliable, frequent, and safe public transportation systems. Similarly, we would also need to include better active transportation infrastructure as well, like bicycle paths, sidewalks, and greenways.

This will also allow for the limited use of cars in society that may be needed, such as emergency response vehicles, ambulances, and fire trucks. So while it may seem far-fetched to many, we have the ability and good examples of how to achieve these goals.

The possibility is there, but is it a good idea? Yes. The amount of pollution reduced, particularly from fossil-fuel-using cars will greatly improve air quality and reduce air pollution-related morbidity and mortality. Similarly, the reduction of car accidents would greatly improve the safety of our cities as well.

Compared with other countries, why is the U.S. slower to embrace the car-free lifestyle?

In many instances, the U.S. designed cities for cars, not people. Urban sprawl and suburban communities included in these designs almost required people in the U.S. to have cars. Cities in other countries, particularly older cities in Europe and Asia grew without cars and ‘retrofitted’ their cities to include cars. We see this a lot with the size of cars in Europe versus the U.S. Many large cars in the U.S. would not even fit down European streets.

In the U.S., cars are also linked to American values of freedom, independence, and self-reliance. It was, and likely still is, a right of passage for a teenager to get their driver’s license and be granted that freedom.

In many cases, the U.S. continues to emphasize suburban living and large single-family homes. This reinforces the need for vehicles, particularly when individuals living in these communities do not have walkable workplaces, retail establishments, or access to public transportation. The U.S. will continue to be slower at embracing the car-free lifestyle until changes are made to reduce the reliance on our vehicles.

Are car-free days a good long-term solution to traffic-related problems, such as noise, pollution, congestion, and associated health issues?

Absolutely. The reduction in noise, pollution, and traffic will greatly enhance our health and safety. Car-free days give individuals a glimpse into what life could be like without cars. The more individuals who see and experience this benefit, the more likely a change in public opinion is possible. When it comes to redesigning our cities for people and less so for cars, any changes that move in this direction will be beneficial, long-term or short-term.

What are some situations that absolutely require having a car?

Personally, I did not own a car for over 25 years while living in cities. I never felt the need to have a car and my needs were met by public transit, bicycles, and walking. That being said, each individual will have a different perspective and situation on whether or not they absolutely need a car. It could be about work, caring for children or older adults, or a variety of other factors. There may or may not be a situation described that would be agreeable to everyone.

What are your top three tips for someone considering a car-free lifestyle?

  1. If possible, consider your living situation. Can you relocate to an area that will support your car-free lifestyle?
  2. Try going car-free for one week and assess the pros and cons.
  3. Consider your values. Want to help combat climate change? Looking for health benefits? Saving money?
Kenneth Martens Friesen, Ph.D.
Professor of History and International Studies
Fresno Pacific University

What would it take to make a city completely car-free? Is that possible or even a good idea? Please explain.

I know it is possible to make a city completely car-free because I have lived in several car-free, or virtually car-free, societies around the world. In the 1980s I lived in Xiamen and Shenyang, China for several months while teaching English. Both cities, including Shenyang, with several million residents, had extensive and very inexpensive bus services.

In addition, virtually everyone rode bikes all through the city. At the time it seemed ‘quaint’ and was largely the result of China not yet having experienced the rapid economic growth of the 1990s and 2000s. But it demonstrated that major cities could be almost completely car-free.

In the 1990s I lived in Hanoi, Vietnam, where, again, cars were definitely the exception rather than the rule. When I first visited in 1993, I counted 100 bicycles to 10 motorbikes to one car. In the late 1990s, the number of motorbikes had dramatically increased and the count was about even of 100 bicycles to 100 motorbikes to 10 cars.

In the case of Hanoi, the public transit system was quite basic and people simply used bicycles and motorbikes as personal transport, goods transport, taxis, and everything else. Only in the past 15 years, as the country has become more wealthy, have personal cars become more common. Fortunately, the public transit system has greatly improved and it is quite viable to live in the city of 8 million without owning a car.

Compared with other countries, why is the U.S. slower to embrace the car-free lifestyle?

There is something in the psyche of America that yearns to drive. It involves the notion of freedom, individualism, and mobility. The growth of Los Angeles in the post-WWII era, and the movie industry that it spawned, cemented the dream of car ownership, suburbia, and ribbons of endless freeways.

Now, faced with the nightmare of traffic jams, endless commutes, and suburban sprawl, America is still loath to give up the dream. But this time, the refusal is largely the result of other parts of America’s soul: low taxes and a general distrust of government.

A car-free lifestyle requires trust in governments at the city, state, and federal levels to work for the common good. Americans have rarely had that trust, and inculcating it requires a sea shift in public attitudes.

The residents of cities like Denver and Seattle have made headway in pushing for mass transit and bicycle commuting. Building trust in those governments to build up a mass-transit network took years of coalition-building and open forums. The result is a better-than-average network of bikeways and access to a bus and rail network along with a decent network of bike paths and lanes.

The U.S. is also far behind most other industrialized countries when it comes to putting a true cost on automobile dependence. The social, environmental, and health care costs of cars make them tremendously more expensive to use than bicycles and public transit, yet the United States has generally ignored these costs.

Europe and Japan have, since the 1973 gas crisis, increasingly recognized these costs and created an urban landscape that encourages its citizens financially and socially to move toward less dependence on cars.

Are car-free days a good long-term solution to traffic-related problems, such as noise, pollution, congestion, and associated health issues?

In a city like Fresno, California, where I live, a ‘car-free’ day is unfortunately almost laughable. While a small minority of us choose to commute by bike, it is the poor that are largely the ones who live car-free days on a regular basis and not by choice.

Encouraging transit days and bike-to-work days is a good start to making cities like Fresno car-free, but greatly expanded transit and bike routes are a necessary pre-condition to truly car-free days.

What are some situations that absolutely require having a car?

With access to Uber or Lyft or the ability to occasionally rent a car for driving out-of-town, cars are rarely ‘absolutely required.’ It is rather our obsession with mobility and the refusal to embrace a truly viable transit system that makes cars necessary.

What are your top three tips for someone considering a car-free lifestyle?

  1. Get a bike that works for you and your situation –– whether for commuting, grocery shopping, etc.
  2. Be very aware of the public transit system that does exist in your city.
  3. Try to live near your work or public transit to make living car-free more viable.

Methodology

For each of the 200 biggest U.S. cities, we gathered publicly available data on the factors listed in the table below. 

We then grouped those factors into four categories: Access, Commute Culture, Safety, and Climate.

Next, we calculated weighted scores for each city in each category. 

Finally, we averaged the scores for each city across all categories. 

The city that earned the highest average score was ranked “Best” (No. 1), while the city with the lowest was ranked “Worst” (No. 200). (Note: The “Worst” among individual factors may not be No. 200 due to ties among cities.)

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. ValueBest
Access
Bike Score32783Max. Value
Walk Score31397Max. Value
Bike-Rental Facilities per 100,000 Residents200.9Max. Value
Number of Ride-Hailing Services202Max. Value
Number of Electric Scooter Rentals105Max. Value
Commute Culture
Share of Residents Who Ride Public Transit to Work30.2%52.8%Max. Value
Share of Residents Who Walk to Work30.4%14.6%Max. Value
Share of Residents Who Bike to Work30%5.4%Max. Value
Share of Residents Who Carpool to Work24.3%17.7%Max. Value
Average Commute (in Minutes)115.839.8Min. Value
Safety
Crime Index2085Max. Value
Pedestrian Fatalities per 100,000 Residents3010.1Min. Value
Unintentional Gun Shootings per 100,000 Residents207.2Min. Value
Bike Thefts per 100,000 Residents10286.7Min. Value
Climate
Yearly Average Number of Very Cold Days10192Min. Value
Yearly Average Number of Very Hot Days12169Min. Value
Monthly Average Inches of Precipitation30.55.4Min. Value
Yearly Average Percentage of Sunshine14285Max. Value
Median Air Quality Index125123Min. Value

Sources: Bike Index, Bird, Environmental Protection Agency, Gun Violence Archive, Lime, Lyft, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NeighborhoodScout, Spin, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Transportation, Uber, Veo, Walk Score, and Yelp

Why This Study Matters

In America, the car is king of the road. Earlier this year, a survey found that nearly 8 in 10 U.S. commuters drive between home and work. 

According to an earlier poll, however, most drivers wish they didn’t have to get behind the wheel — but feel they don’t have a choice due to the lack of transport alternatives. 

Could consumers abandon the car? 

New-car prices are nearing an all-time high, and the sticker shock is deterring many consumers from buying a set of wheels. Over the past decade, the average purchase price of a new car has increased by almost 60% to upwards of $48,000 today, and the cost of ownership, over $10,000, isn’t any better.

More employees are also working remotely or splitting their time between home and office, which means fewer people and less time on the road. 

What’s the benefit of living car-free besides more money in your pocket?

It helps you get more exercise. It allows people to reclaim spaces for their own use. It’s safer for pedestrians. It keeps streets cleaner and protects the environment.

This study shows the cities that are already leading the way.

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Richie Bernardo

Richie Bernardo

Richie Bernardo is a managing editor who previously wrote about personal finance and immigration. Philippine-born, Kansas City-bred, and barbecue-fed, Richie enjoys baking, deal hunting, and binging “Ancient Aliens.”