Take a bow, Austin. You rank near the top when it comes to bicycling and swimming, according to recent national polls.
Last week Austin was named the fourth best swim city in America. This week Bicycle Magazine named us the country’s seventh best bicycling city.
That’s up four positions from 2014 in the magazine’s “America’s 50 Best Bike Cities” list, which is released every two years. (See my blog from 2014 here.)
The magazine notes that “more than 10 percent of Austinites who live within an 8-square-mile area around downtown now commute by bike.”
But that’s only a sliver of our city, which sprawls for miles in all directions from downtown. Considered as a whole, the percentage of commuters is much lower.
According to a report from the U.S. Census released in 2014, Portland, Oregon, topped a list that compared the percentage of bike commuters in American cities. It claimed 6.1 percent. Austin didn’t even rank in the top 15, and the average percentage of commuters in cities across the country came in at 0.6 percent.
The story makes no mention of Austin’s sometimes less-than-conducive-to-cycling summer heat, either. Have you tried pedaling up Lamar Boulevard on an August afternoon?
The list ranks Chicago ahead of Portland, Oregon, long a mecca for bicycle riders. And it puts Austin ahead of both Boulder and Fort Collins, Colorado.
I spent a few days in Fort Collins earlier this year, where the city’s bike-centric personality impressed me. Cyclists can easily ride bikes to the city’s popular breweries, use a bike share system, tune into a local radio program about bikes and brews, and find out about bike-themed activities through a central umbrella organization that compiles the information.
But it’s good news, and Mercedes Feris, executive director of Bike Austin, a nonprofit organization that promotes biking in Austin and offers regular group rides, said Austin’s ranking on the magazine’s list pleased her.
“Bike Austin is excited to hear that Austin is now in seventh place, up from 11th from last year,” Feris said. “Protected bike lanes are proven to make our city safer for bicycling and encourage a more diverse population to take up bicycling as a mode of transportation. We applaud our city leaders who recognize this and thank them for their support.
According to a press release, magazine editors based their rankings on data from the U.S. Census and Department of Transportation. They also consulted with experts from People for Bikes and the League of American Bicyclists, and spoke with cycling advocates and everyday riders. Then they put wheels to the pavement and pedaled their way through the cities for a first-hand experience.
No matter how accurate the results, I’m happy to see Austin making steady progress.
Here’s to more.
For more information on top-ranking cities, go here.
Here’s the top 10 from the poll:
2. San Francisco
3. Portland, Oregon
4. New York City
8. Cambridge, Mass.
9. Washington, D.C.
10. Boulder, Colo.