10 Most Bikeable U.S. Cities

PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- When New York debuted its bicycle sharing program last month, the tabloids and columnists had their collective freakout and Citibank ( C)-sponsored CitiBike was not only still standing, but going strong with more than 20,000 members. That may have been the bike boom's mainstream moment.

Yes, the system is still a glitch-ridden mess thanks to a falling-out between equipment company Bixi and its software designer. Yes, Chicago's new Divvy bike share program is riddled with the same issues, as is the system in Chattanooga, Tenn. But just having New York and Chicago on board removes the biggest obstacle to expanded use of those programs in America's large cities and -- like Boston's Hubway system and Minneapolis' Nice Ride systems before them -- dispels the myth that such programs are strictly for small cities and college towns.

Walk Score, a mapping service that generally rates cities and neighborhoods based on their density, their access to public transportation and their distribution of amenities, has begun factoring a city's "bikeability" into its rankings as well. A city's Bike Score takes into account its bike infrastructure (bike lanes, turn boxes, trails, racks, etc.), the numbers of bikers on its streets per capita, its hilly terrain and other factors when considering just how highly a city should rank.

It started offering that data last year after The League of American Cyclistsnoted that American bicycle commuting jumped 47% between 2000 and 2011. It also noted that cities where more bike lanes, accommodations and even new buildings with bike storage and repair shops saw bike commuting jump 80% during that same span.

While Walk Score put out a Top 10 listof cities that garnered its best Bike Scores, it included only cities with a population of 500,000 or more. No offense to No. 1 Portland, Ore., but it wouldn't even make the list if smaller towns with higher scores were thrown into the mix. For a more fair representation, we scoured Walk Score's complete list of Bike Score data and came up with the Top 10 cities for cyclists overall:

10. Ann Arbor, Mich.
Bike score: 76.3
Population: 113,934
Percentage of bicycle commuters: 3.73%

It has to be tough pushing bikes in a state that leans so heavily on the automobile, but if any town in this state can do it, it's Ann Arbor. With a huge bike-friendly student population courtesy of the University of Michigan and a city council willing to give bikes room on nearly half of Ann Arbor's roads, this is exactly the kind of Michigan community where a bike would be welcome.

The city council has put 5% of its state gasoline and weight tax revenues toward decidedly non-car transportation improvements, particularly on-road bicycle lanes.

9. Hoboken, N.J.
Bike score: 76.4
Population: 50,005
Percentage of bicycle commuters: 0.43%

Seriously, Hoboken? The same town in which landmark rock club Maxwell's just announced it was closing down because of the lack of parking?

Well, yes, and parking has a bunch to do with it. Biking down Washington Street isn't exactly the most bucolic or even relaxing experience, and the waterfront trails are already too packed with walkers and double-wide strollers to be considered legitimate thoroughfares. But even in a town a mile square where just about everyone works across the Hudson River in a city that isn't connected to Hoboken in any bikeable fashion, just getting to your chosen form of public transportation can warrant a good bike.

The PATH train station, the NJ Transit train and the ferries across the river can be a hefty hike if you're all the way across town, but Hoboken's relatively flat terrain and simple grid street layout are more quickly navigated by bike than by cab or foot. We'd recommend strong locks and not biking down to Pier A Park until a weekend or holiday, but it's doable.

8. Iowa City, Iowa
Bike score: 77.1
Population: 67,862
Percentage of bicycle commuters: 4.32%

Much like Ann Arbor, Iowa City benefits from having a built-in bike base at the University of Iowa and a local government that's been in favor of bikes for more than 40 years.

Iowa City has had a plan for bike paths and trails in place since 1968 and has a great community of shops and bike-friendly builders supporting the effort. It may seem like a lot of work just to placate college students, but that presumes that those students ever leave Iowa City. Roughly 44% of Iowa City adults have a bachelor's degree or better, second only to Stamford, Conn., and they tend to be just the type of crowd that pedals its way to the city's arts festivals, jazz festivals and literary events.

7. Fort Collins, Colo.
Bike score: 78.3
Population: 143,986
Percentage of bicycle commuters: 6.64%

The home of the Colorado State University has more than 280 miles of bike lanes and no problem lending bikes to visitors who forgot theirs at home. The city loans out bikes through its Fort Collins Bicycle Library for a refundable down payment and sends away students, residents and visitors with self-guided bike tours.

It also has no problems handing out maps of downtown that encourage riders to use reliable alleyways and lightly traveled streets instead of high-traffic thoroughfares such as College Avenue and Jefferson Street. Those same also mark off the "dismount zone" where cyclists will be issued a $50 ticket if they're caught riding on the sidewalks.

One in four Fort Collins residents attends Colorado State, but the city's sprawling bicycle events calendar saves much of its best offerings for summer break. Bike shows, bike and jazz festivals, endurance races, moonlight rides, barbecue biking events and a weekend Fort Collins Cycling Festival in August with concerts, food and races on a big screen downtown fill the slate until well after labor day. This all just supplements the dozens of regularly scheduled rides hosted by area bike groups seven days a week during the summer.

New Belgium Brewery completes the cyclist's paradise by hosting the Urban Assault Ride bicycle scavenger hunt throughout the city in July, a bike-in cinema on the brewery's front lawn for six weeks from August through September and its annual Tour De Fat bicycle race and festival on Labor Day weekend. That bicycle on the label of the brewery's Fat Tire beer isn't just for show.

6. Minneapolis, Minn.
Bike score: 78.5
Population: 382,578
Percentage of bicycle commuters: 3.37%

It's the biggest city on this list and easily has the most bike commuters, but Minneapolis bike culture is about far more than getting to and from work.

As mentioned earlier, the city's Nice Ride bike share system has not only been a huge success since starting in 2010, but it's expanded to 146 locations and more than 1,300 bikes. While not huge by today's standards, when even Long Beach, Calif., has more than 2,500 bike-share rides, that program is just one cog in the city's streamlined approach to cycling.

Minneapolis has more than 120 miles of on- and off-street trails, hosts education programs for cyclists and actively prods more people to get on their bikes by employing four full-time staffers in its bike ambassador program. Their whole job is to help break the myth that cyclists are somehow dangerous, elitist road hazards and to teach cyclists that motorists and pedestrians aren't just obstacles to overcome, but folks who share the roads with them and deserve their respect.

As even more incentive to ride, the city also subsidizes shower, locker and bicycle storage facilities at downtown parking garages.

5. Santa Monica, Calif.
Bike score: 82.5
Population: 97,385
Percentage of bicycle commuters: 2.8%

Somewhere between half to three-quarters of the roads of this eight-mile oceanfront community surrounded by Los Angeles is covered in bike lanes or shared riding space, and it's almost immediately apparent why.

Bike rentals at Santa Monica Bike Center locations or in nearby Venice help flood the streets with cruiser bikes, while a 350-bike sharing program is still in its earliest stages. Meanwhile, the city just installed bike racks throughout its streets and is continuing its immensely popular and free bicycle valet parking service at its Sunday Main Street Farmers Market, Friday nights on Main Street and during special events such as the Twilight Dance Series.

There are mass rides for kids, school bike routes, new bike lanes, bike festivals and the Santa Monica beach trail -- a huge draw for visiting cyclists, but a quick route into L.A. for locals.

4. Boulder, Colo.
Bike score: 86.4
Population: 113,934
Percentage of bicycle commuters: 10.5%

Now we're getting into the heavy hitters -- towns where one in 10 people or more take their bike to work. To the University of Colorado students who make up 35% of the city's population, the biotech, aeronautic and defense company workers who bike through their commute and the two-wheeled travelers who help keep the city delightfully weird, the bike is the way to go in Boulder.

The city has more than 300 miles of trails, dozens of bike underpasses that speed riders past busy streets and a government-funded site, GoBoulderBike.net, that helps cyclists find the shortest route to their destination by bicycle, how many calories they'll burn along the way and how much they're saving in gas money by not driving. The overwhelming majority of the city's streets have bike lanes or easy bike access.

Boulder also sponsors a walk-and-bike month each June that includes free bike clinics, rides, tours, repair workshops and even happy hour drinks for riders. The city's efforts also get a lot of help by local bike groups, including the nonprofit Community Cycles, which hosts bike-in movies, bike collection drives, bike-trail opening events, bike workshops and clinics and "earn-a-bike" programs that allow Boulder residents to pay for a bike by working hours in the group's shop.

The most inherently boulder bike events, however, are the Thursday cruiser bike rides that feature custom bikes decorated with lawn ornaments, picnic tables or whatever the groups hosting the rides feel like adding to them and costumes that can range in theme from fuzzy Santa costumes for Christmas in July to random video game characters. The theme changes each week based by the organizers' discretion, with this summer's Thursday motifs including cops and robbers, historical figures, steampunk and heavy metal. The bikes and the "Happy Thursday" greeting yelled by the cyclists are the only constants in an event that's consistently odd and quintessentially Boulder.

3. Berkley, Calif.
Bike score: 87.7
Population: 112,580
Percentage of bicycle commuters: N/A

Forgive Berkeley for thinking that it invented urban cycling. In some ways, it did.

Berkeley was one of the first cities in the U.S. to block and divert traffic away from local streets and toward major arteries to create low-speed "bicycle boulevards" for riders to use as alternatives to congested high-speed thoroughfares. The combination of bike lanes, low speed limits and access to full roads puts bikes on par with cars on these streets and has the added effect of discouraging automobiles.

Portland and Eugene, Ore., and Madison, Wis., have similar features, but Berkeley augments its boulevards with numerous bicycle routes, the Ohlone Greenway, a portion of the 300-mile San Francisco Bay Trail and the $6.5 million Berkeley Interstate 80 bridge that connects the city to the trail, East Shore State Park and the Berkeley Marina. The University of California at Berkeley certainly plays a role in cycling's success here, but the city and partners such as the local YMCA and hometown business Clif Bar deserve a whole lot of credit for setting the blueprint.

2. Davis, Calif.
Bike score: 89.4
Population: 65,622
Percentage of bicycle commuters: 19%

You're not reading that wrong. That's nearly one in five people who take their bike to work or school. Confine that to the UC Davis campus, however, and bike ridership rises to more than 40%.

For everywhere else in America, the 1970s represented a bike boom. In Davis, it's been a bike boom just about every year since. This is the town that hosts the Tour of California, the Livestrong Challenge Ride and the US Bicycling Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. It regularly pours funding into bike path upgrades from asphalt to concrete, widened and improved bike ramps, and the installation of bicycle racks all over the city.

Even with that level of bike use, the city is still contemplating a bike share program. With flat terrain, mild winters and a surrounding area that's mostly farmland, Davis is where ideas such as bike auctions, bike locker rentals, bike registration, parking permits for bike commuters, valet bike parking, tire air stations, shower and locker facilities and bike-based urban planning get their start.

On the UC Davis campus, meanwhile, the Bike Barn not only lets students rent bikes, but sets them up with ownership plans and teaches them how to fix their own gear.

1. Cambridge, Mass.
Bike score: 91.5
Population: 105,162
Percentage of bicycle commuters: 5.6%

Sandwiched between Boston and Somerville, Cambridge's cycling culture is cobbled together from equal measures of college students, long-established bike shops, bustling neighborhoods and squares and a strong community of technology and biotech firms clustered around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Each day, cyclists converge on the bike lanes of the Massachusetts Avenue corridor that runs through MIT, touches Genzyme, Sanofi ( SNY), Biogen Idec ( BIIB), Akamai ( AKAM) and other firms in Kendall Square, makes its way past the music venues and restaurants in Central Square, speeds through the storefronts, newsstands and tourists in Harvard Square and passes the mini malls and modest homes of Porter Square. Those riders could be from Harvard -- which promotes cycling throughout the city with cash incentives for bikes -- or MIT, as 21% of Cambridge residents are college students. They could be blue-shirted office workers or white-coated lab techs or they could be Boston commuters who just happened to find a cool place amid the bars, restaurants and Portuguese barbecue of Inman Square. Or they could just be visitors who got their hands on the Hubway bikes that spilled over to Cambridge from Boston's popular bike-share program.

They're all forces to be reckoned with on Cambridge's roads, as added bike lanes and shared lane space has made them as much a part of daily traffic flow as the buses, trucks and cars they share the roads with. The jam-packed bike racks at MIT visible from Massachusetts Avenue bear this out, as do the throngs of riders who flock to Memorial Drive along the Charles River when it closes to vehicle traffic during the weekends.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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