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Austin scores dubious spot in new ranking of the best cities for biking

Austin scores dubious spot in new ranking of best cities for biking

Two girls riding bikes
Make way for two wheels. Courtesy photo

A new ranking was just released from PeopleForBikes, a nonprofit devoted to making cycling safer for everyone, and Austin rides in at No. 20.

That might sound impressive, especially when you consider 567 cities were analyzed to get these rankings, but it's not quite the accolade that it first appears.

"Our city ratings create a holistic picture of bicycling in cities based on measurable factors," says Rebecca Davies, PeopleForBikes' network and mapping specialist. "Top scorers are cities of all types and geographies who have succeeded in different ways, including cities with strong historical investments in active transportation as well as cities pursuing ambitious plans to rapidly implement high-quality bicycle networks."

The data was shaped by five equally rated indicators:

  • Ridership (how many people are riding bikes?)
  • Safety (how safe is it to ride bikes?)
  • Network (how easy is it for people to bike where they want to go?)
  • Reach (how well does the network serve all members of the community?)
  • Acceleration (how fast is the bike network growing and/or improving?)

On the 1-5 scales, Austin scored an overall 3, with 2.6 for safety, 2.3 for ridership, 1.9 for reach, and 1.4 for network. Our highest score — 4.1 — was for acceleration, which measures the city's commitment to growing bicycling quickly, an important metric for the soon-to-be 10th most populous city.

The City of Austin points out that in 2019, it "accelerated its active transportation efforts and completed more than 30 trail and bikeway projects, connecting neighborhoods and providing spaces so that all people of all ages and abilities can ride safely. These projects also included new pedestrian crossings to parks and schools, as well as transit access improvements like floating bus stops to better serve bus riders."

And yet Austin's reach (serving all members of the community) and network (ease of biking to where you want to go) are still pretty dismal. 

Sharing the top spot as the best cities for biking are San Luis Obispo, California, and Madison, Wisconsin, each with an overall rating of 3.5. No other Texas city made the top 20.

Four cities rest at the bottom of the study with a measly 0.5 rating: Brielle, New Jersey; Foxborough, Massachusetts; Elizabethtown, Kentucky; and Mountain Home, Arkansas.