Do you want to live longer and help slow global warming? Ride a bike. About two billion bikes are in use globally, according to the World Economic Forum, and cycling is growing in popularity, with a pandemic surge in interest creating bicycle shortages around the globe.
If you’re committed to spending some time in the saddle, and you’ve procured your wheels, many factors can affect your quality of life as a cyclist. LawnStarter recently ranked the best and worst U.S. cities for cycling by scoring each of the 200 largest cities in 18 metrics across four categories — weather; access to bike routes, bike shops and bike share programs; safety; and community support from bike organizations and groups.
Despite its mammoth hills, San Francisco came out on top. Puzzling? Not so much when you consider its bike-friendly climate and community scores (both ranked seventh among the 200 cities). San Francisco tied with five other California cities — Stockton, Fremont, Hayward, Santa Rosa and Modesto — for having the most bike lanes per square mile, which helped its access score.
The fewest bike lanes per square mile were found in Dallas and Memphis, which ranked 140th and 177th overall. Cities in the southern United States generally fell to the bottom end of the list because of their hot and humid climates, with Baton Rouge, La., coming in dead last. A challenging climate means fewer cyclists, which in turn means less access and community support, lowering the rankings across all categories.
In New York, biking is growing at a rate nearly double that of other major American cities, with about three times the number of riders than there were 15 years ago. That’s about 900,000 regular riders, according to the city’s Department of Transportation. The recently implemented Green Wave plan (the name alludes to the color of bike lanes) aims at increasing safety by adding more protected lanes. Despite all this, New York landed in 19th place, dragged down by low scores for its climate, which can get too cold (and icy) for most cyclists for months on end.
Below, the 10 best cities for cyclists and the 10 worst, according to LawnStarter.