Best Cycling Destinations: North America

Top 10 most bikeable cities in North American.

By Carrie Swiggum & Aretha Munro

Travelling to any city on a bike makes it a great place to be, but some cities prove better than others. These urban centers were judged using the following criteria: the percentage of commuters; the presence of online bike resources and advocacy groups; the level of support for cycling at the municipal level, and the quality of their public bike share system, if applicable. The prevalence of bicycle-friendly businesses, including hotels with loaner bike services; a high number of group rides and events; and the amount of things to see and do by bike were also factors in determining our top 10.

Portland, OR

Portland has the highest percentage of commuters and kids that ride to school. A 12-mile trail connects the airport to the city. Cyclists can get discounts from businesses, loaner bikes from local hotels and information about everything bicycle-related from BikePortland.org.

San Francisco, CA

Critical Mass started here in the early 1990s and so did (Park)ing Day in 2005 – a project that transforms one metered parking space into a temporary park for a day. Since 2006, the number of commuters has increased by 58 percent, and as of 2008, there were 200 miles (322 kms) of bike networks in the 49-square-mile (127-square-km) city.

Minneapolis, MN

Take the 11-mile (18-km) trail around the lakes and then jump in on a hot day! If you’re new to the city or just there for a visit, join the inclusive cycling community on MplsBikeLove.com.

Montreal, QC

Montreal’s BIXI bike share system revolutionized the bicycle sharing experience in North America in the spring of 2009. The Montreal Bike Fest is in its 26th year and includes a ride that takes you through 30 miles (48 kms) of car-free streets.

Boulder, CO

There are over 300 miles (483 kilometers) of

bike trails in this town of 100,000 people, you can get anywhere on a bike. On Thursdays, cyclists get together and cruise around the city sometimes in costume, shouting “Happy Thursday!” to passersby.

Seattle, WA

Find a plethora of coffee shops to park at and explore Seattle-based bike websites to find things to do on two wheels. Stop by this year in June for the second Spoke & Food event, billed as an evening of dining and bikes.

Chicago, IL

Bike-centered events include an overnight ride through Chicago’s neighborhoods. Bike the Drive in May has drawn close to 20,000 cyclists. The McDonald’s Cycle Center is a bike station that offers repair, rentals, showers, lockers and parking for 300 bicycles.

Vancouver, BC

Vancouver’s seawall is the perfect place to

take a leisurely cruise along beaches. Two

weeks in June are devoted to Velopalooza, a yearly cycling event featuring group rides, food and movies.

Davis, CA

In 2005, Davis received the first platinum-level-city designation in the US by the League of American Bicyclists. Last year, Davis residents set a world record for the longest single line of bicycles during the World’s Greatest Bicycle Parade – over 1,000 bicycles in a row!

Austin, TX

Pedal from street food vendor to vendor, tasting the local delicacies. Join one of the group rides taking place every day of the week and visit Lance Armstrong’s very own Mellow Johnny’s bike shop.

Notable Mentions:

Madison, WI

New York City, NY

Berkeley, CA

Washington, DC

Ottawa, ON

Emerging Cities:

Boston, MA

Mexico City, Mexico

Winnipeg, MB

Philadelphia, PA

8 Comments

  • Gord

    A good start, but it does seem difficult to find a well researched source of N.A.’s best. Calgary has roughly 700 Km of pathways, and 290 Km of on street bikeways. From the city website: “Calgary has the most extensive urban pathway and bikeway network in North America.” Find miles of creek and river valleys, climbs to commanding views over the city, and hours of uninterrupted paved paths. After one of my rolling suburban laps, around the sprawling SW or NW quadrant, I like to include a cafe in Kensington on the return trip. Try Nose Hill Park or Paskapoo Slopes for demanding mountain biking overlooking the city. Go well.

  • t

    St. Petersburg FL and Denver not being mentioned on the list shows that the writer has little knowledge of the topic. Sure would be nice if journalist did accurate research. Does not take much effort to find that these two belong on the list.

  • Brenda

    I’m surprised Denver, CO isn’t mentioned here. According to our research and visit there is a whole network of bike trails thoughout the city, many along rivers and creeks. Just Highland Ranch alone has more than 60 miles of off-street trails. That is what I am interested in………living a place that has off street bike trials. I hate worrying about cars. Yes Boulder, CO on this list but Denver itself is looking pretty good.

  • Jeff

    While not quite in the Top 10 for cycling, Anchorage, Alaska has a lot to offer. There are bike trails covering most of the city, that provide car-free travel corridors from one end of town to the other. The scenery is unmatched anywhere in the world. There are miles and miles of trails for off-road biking (in summer) and skiing (in winter). And the cycling community is very well connected and active.

  • TO Cyclist

    Thanks for snubbing Toronto yet again!

  • Jacques Graber

    Sacramento has truly THE world class place to bicycle, a Parkway that literally runs the entire LENGTH of the Sacramento Metropolitan region from the Sacramento River non-stop to the City of Folsom and through to the north shore of Folsom Lake. The Parkway allows complete CAR FREE bicycle travel and is great for all skills. It provides a “bicycle freeway” for bicycle commuters and does it with an added “wilderness experience” nearly unparallelled. I bicycle commuted 40 mi per day for 33 years on this Gem of the Valley. Sacramento has one of the most complete bikeway networks allowing very good access to even the most remote parts of the metro area. Work is in to complete a full 70 mile bike way LOOP around the whole metro area and an added EXTENSION of the Parkway from Folsom, east along the Old Placerville RR line to Placerville, making for a nearly 70 mile long bikeway from Placerville to downtown Sacramento. I can even bike-trailer my kayak to Lake Natoma!

  • John Rowlandon

    Portland is an awesome cycling destination. Bring your bike in an Amtrak baggage car for $5.00! There are 1,200 kms of cycling trails/paths (extremely well marked with destinations and approx pedal time). They publish a rain proof commuter cycling map. And a whole new eco-entrepreneurial class (Cyclist Sports Bar anyone!) supports cyclists in North America’s greenest city. I live in British Columbia and Portland has set the bar for everyone else!

  • Lee Crandell

    For Chicago, don’t forget about our 18-mile Lakefront Trail on the shore of Lake Michigan, connecting the Loop to vibrant neighborhoods, parks and beaches with incredible views. http://www.activetrans.org/lakefront

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