Each year a number of stories are published that list the most bike-friendly cities around the United States and the world. These lists usually feature many of the same places year after year, and these cities seem to always compete with one another for the top spot. From Portland to Minneapolis or Copenhagen, bike-friendly cities are a geographically diverse mix, but they all share certain similarities that makes them good places for cyclists to live and ride.
Bike lanes - Safety is a top priority for bicyclists. When it comes to encouraging new riders to begin using bicycles for both exercise and transportation, it is important to make them feel safe on the roads. Bike-friendly cities provide clearly marked bike lanes so everyone knows that cyclists have the same right to be on the road as cars.
Dedicated bike paths - Separate from car and foot traffic, dedicated bike paths go one step further than bike lanes by offering cyclists a measure of protection from distracted drivers or pedestrians. They are preferred by many riders because of the safety they offer, but that peace of mind sometimes requires significant investment from the community. The cities that provide bike lanes have demonstrated their commitment to bicycling, and they are often regarded as more bike-friendly as a result.
Trails - A system of bike trails is another great way to encourage travel by bicycle. The more extensive this system, the more practical it becomes for cyclists to use. Through proper planning, a community can integrate its trail system with the lanes and paths along its roads to form a network that bicyclists can safely navigate.
Bike racks - One crucial planning component that is often overlooked when developing a bike-friendly transportation network is the need for plentiful bike racks. These provide a safe place for cyclists to keep bikes once they reach their destination. Recreational riders will often stop for a bite to eat or to take a break somewhere, while bike commuters or people out running errands need bike racks even more, as they may be away from their bikes for an extended period of time. When cyclists are confident their bike will be safe and secure, they are much more likely to ride.
Bike-friendly cities share a commitment to understanding the wants and needs of the cyclists in their communities and they work to meet them. When this happens, bicyclists respond by getting out on the paths, trails and roads.